U.S. Junior Amateur: Davis Riley leads early
Davis Riley
Davis Riley

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THE WOODLANDS, Texas – It didn’t take long for Davis Riley, the 2013 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship runner-up, to make his presence felt in this year’s championship at The Club at Carlton Woods’ Nicklaus Course.

The 17-year-old from Hattiesburg, Miss., began his round at 7:30 a.m. CDT and polished off a bogey-free, 5-under 67 before the searing Texas heat took full effect. He holds a one- stroke lead over Sam Horsfield, of England, and Joshua Sedeno, of Roseville, Calif., in the race for stroke-play medalist.

The second round of stroke-play qualifying will be conducted on Tuesday, with the top 64 finishers advancing to the match-play portion of the championship.

Riley’s sterling round included five birdies and virtually no stress, which is an accomplishment on this challenging par- 72 course that was set up at 7,219 yards.

“Starting the round, I just told myself fairways and greens and make a few putts here and there,” said Riley. “I hit a ton of greens, had about five or six shots up there to within 10 feet of the hole and took advantage of my opportunities.”

This is the last year that Riley will be eligible to play in the U.S. Junior, and while there is still a long way to go, he hopes to apply the lessons he learned when this championship shifts to match play starting on Wednesday.

“Last year was a really good learning experience,” he said. “I learned that a lot of fairways and greens are going to win matches, so let the other guy make the mistakes. Just the experience of the past two years really helped me out a lot.”

As good as Riley’s round was, he has good company on the leader board. Shrugging off the heat and the difficult course, 29 players posted under-par rounds today, displaying the depth of talent in the junior ranks.

Horsfield and Sedeno both shot their 68s in the afternoon. Horsfield, a quarterfinalist in the 2013 U.S. Junior Amateur who also reached the round of 32 in last week’s U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship, came into today with good form and a positive attitude.

“When you’re playing well, you feel like you know what you’re going to do,” said Horsfield. “You just have a lot of confidence when you’re playing well and especially against good competition.”

While Horsfield has lived in Orlando, Fla., since he was 5 years old and is used to the heat and humidity, he’s looking forward to his morning starting time for Tuesday’s second round.

“I like playing in the morning. I feel like the greens are pure since nobody has walked on them,” he said. “I have the first tee time out, so there should be some good birdie opportunities and I’m looking forward to it.”

In contrast to Riley and Horsfield, Sedeno is making his USGA championship debut. He got off to a somewhat shaky start with bogeys on two of his first seven holes, but then proceeded to birdie four holes in a row (13-16) and add a closing birdie at the par-5 18th to post his 4-under round.

Among the group of seven players at 3-under 69 is Jacob Solomon, of Dublin, Calif., who had a memorable start to his first USGA championship.

“I actually birdied the first hole, chipped in from right off the green and that was pretty cool to get the nerves away and start with a birdie,” he said.

Joining Solomon at 69 are Cheng Jin, of the People’s Republic of China; Braden Thornberry, of Olive Branch, Miss.; Tony Gil, of Canada; Brad Dalke, of Hobart, Okla.; Thomas Longbella, of Chippewa Falls, Wis.; and John Mancinotti, of Toledo, Ohio. All are well- positioned to reach match play with another good round Tuesday.

Three notables in the field who shot 1-under 71 are 2014 U.S. Open qualifier Will Grimmer, of Cincinnati; 2013 U.S. Junior Amateur quarterfinalist Cameron Young, of Scarborough, N.Y.; and five-time U.S. Junior participant William Zalatoris, of Plano, Texas.

Two more quarterfinalists from last year, Zecheng Dou, of the People’s Republic of China, and John Augenstein, of Owensboro, Ky., finished at 72 and 73, respectively.

Players from the Houston area who are competing include Brady Price (73), of The Woodlands; Zach Tracy (77), of Houston; and Kyle Hogan (81), of Cypress.

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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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