U.S. Junior: Top seed Liu survives early scare
Jim Liu
Jim Liu

TRUCKEE, Calif. (July 24, 2013) – Jim Liu, 17, of Smithtown, N.Y., the stroke-play medalist, made an 8-foot birdie putt on the first extra hole Wednesday to win his first-round match and lead a group of 32 players into the second round of match play in the 2013 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at the par-72, 7,740-yard Martis Camp Club.

Liu, the Junior Amateur medalist for the second consecutive year, trailed for much of the inward nine against Matthew Lowe, 17, of Farmingdale, N.Y. Liu rallied to take a 1-up lead by winning No. 15 with a par and making birdie on the drivable par-4 16th. Lowe squared the match with a par on No. 18 as Liu made bogey by driving into the rough and hitting his approach shot over the green.

The U.S. Junior Amateur Championship continues with the second and third rounds of match play on Thursday. The quarterfinal and semifinal rounds will be played Friday. The championship is scheduled to conclude with a 36-hole final on Saturday, starting at 7 a.m. PDT.

The U.S. Junior Amateur is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.

Liu, the youngest-ever U.S. Junior Amateur champion at age 14 in 2010 and the runner-up last year, endured double bogeys on holes 6 and 13, each a par 4. He birdied the par-5 ninth to regroup from one of those mistakes. Liu struck an 8-iron 169 yards to set up his winning 8-foot putt.

“That’s golf,” said Liu, who shot rounds of 69 and 67 in stroke play and is playing in his fifth U.S. Junior Amateur Championship. “You can’t expect to play well every day. It’s about the days where you don’t have your best game and you just grind it out. I just tried to stay patient out there. As long as you have more holes to play you have a shot. That’s the mindset I had.”

Lowe, who made an 18-foot birdie putt to survive a four-hole playoff and make match play, relished another opportunity to pull off an upset after Liu’s bogey on No. 18.

“Yeah, I definitely felt rejuvenated,” Lowe said. “But I didn’t think there was any chance he was going to miss that putt [on No. 19 for birdie]. He had that same exact putt this morning. I didn’t think he was going to miss it twice in a row.”

Cameron Young, the second seed, and Scottie Scheffler, the third seed, each won his first-round match. Young, 16, of Scarborough, N.Y. defeated Matt Echelmeier, 16, of Columbia, Mo., 3 and 1. Scheffler, 17, of Dallas, rolled to a 7-and-5 victory over Spencer Painton, 16, of Aurora, Colo.

“I hung in there and struggled with the driver and putter,” said Young, who got up and down for birdie on the par-4 16th to take a 2-up lead with two to play. “I wasn’t hitting it in play as often. I definitely survived.”

A pair of high-ranking seeds had to go extra holes to advance. Zachary Bauchou, 17, of Forest, Va., edged Coleman Self, 16, of Greenwood, S.C., in 19 holes. Bauchou, the fourth seed, won the match with a par on the first hole, while his opponent ran into trouble after driving into the left fairway bunker. Bauchou, who reached the Round of 16 at last year’s Junior Amateur, drove the 323-yard, par-4 16th to set up a birdie, but Self answered with a 45-foot putt to halve the hole. Both players made short par putts on No. 18 to set up the finish.

“We had an excellent match,” said Bauchou, who holed a critical putt to save par at No. 15. “You always build confidence when you are able to make some putts at the end and keep the match going.”

Aaron Terrazas, the ninth seed, went 20 holes to defeat Wes Artac, 17, of Kingwood, Texas. The 16-year-old from Mexico made an 18-foot birdie putt on the second extra hole after hitting his approach 155 yards with a pitching wedge. Terrazas was 1 down heading to No. 15, but sank a left-to-right breaking, 35-foot putt to square the match. Each player birdied their 19th hole, the par-4 first.

“You can’t make the tournament bigger than it is,” said Terrazas, who is playing in his first USGA championship. “You still have to trust in your abilities and be mature enough to know how to manage yourself out there.”

Terrazas will face Sean Crocker, 16, of Zimbabwe, in the Round of 32. Crocker, a 7-and-5 winner over Austin Connelly, 16, of Irving, Texas, made five birdies overall and hooked a 3-wood from 260 yards around a tree and onto the green at the par-5 seventh to set up his second one of the day.

Sam Horsfield, 16, of England, dispatched Dean Sakata, 17, of Diamond Bar, Calif., 7 and 6. Horsfield, who advanced to match play at the 2012 Junior Amateur and reached the Round of 16 at last week’s U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship, had six birdies and no bogeys in 12 holes. He took a 3-up lead when he got up-and-down from a greenside bunker on the par-5 seventh. He reeled off three consecutive birdies to begin the inward nine and close out the match. Horsfield rifled a 3-wood 299 yards on the par-5 10th to set up a two-putt birdie and hit a gap wedge to 6 feet on No. 12 to end that stretch.

“I am starting to figure out the course and I started firing at more pins today,” said Horsfield, who won the Florida State Amateur in June by 11 strokes. “[Match play] is mentally more intense, and as I said before, you are playing just one person, not the field.”

Wilson Furr, 15, of Jackson, Miss., produced one of the best comebacks of the day when he rallied from 4 down to defeat Keenan Huskey, 16, of Greenville, S.C., 1 up. He got things moving in the right direction with a 20-foot birdie putt at No. 9 and another birdie at the par-5 10th. Furr went ahead on the par-3 17th when his opponent missed a 5-foot par putt.

“I checked my fundamentals on the eighth tee,” Furr said. “I realized I was lined up way right. I started aiming more left, and from then on I hit every shot just like I wanted.”

Maverick McNealy, a quarterfinalist at last year’s U.S. Junior Amateur, and Zecheng Dou, who advanced to the quarterfinals at last week’s U.S. Amateur Public Links, each was victorious in his first-round match. McNealy, 17, of Portola Valley, Calif, was a 2-and-1 winner over Cole Berman of Rosemont, Pa., while Dou posted a 4-and-3 triumph over Tyler Moore of Escondido, Calif.

ABOUT THE U.S. Junior Amateur

While it is not the oldest competition, the U.S. Junior Amateur is considered the premier junior competition, having been around since 1948. The event is open to male golfers who have not reached their 19th birthday prior to the close of competition and whose USGA Handicap Index does not exceed 6.4. The U.S. Junior is one of 14 national championship conducted annually by the USGA, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.

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