U.S. Junior Amateur: 12 of 32 first-round matches complete
2015 U.S. Junior Amateur medalist Brandon<Br>Mencheno (USGA Photo)
2015 U.S. Junior Amateur medalist Brandon
Mencheno (USGA Photo)

BLUFFTON, S.C. — Brandon Mancheno, the stroke-play medalist, holds a 2-up lead after 14 holes in his first-round match Wednesday in the weather-delayed 2015 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at the 7,366-yard, par-72 Colleton River Plantation Club’s Dye Course.

Play was suspended at 8:25 p.m. EDT due to darkness with 20 of the 32 first-round matches still on the course.

The first round of match play was delayed due to rain and lightning for 2 hours, 45 minutes in the afternoon. The championship has been delayed three times over the last two days. Play is scheduled to resume on Thursday at 7:30 a.m., with the second round of match play to follow at 9 a.m.

Mancheno earned medalist honors earlier in the day with consecutive rounds of 69 for a 36-hole score of 138. He carried that momentum into his match with Jack Li, 17, of the People’s Republic of China, by winning holes 3 and 4 with birdies. He struck a 4-iron to within 12 feet on the 214-yard, par-3 third and made a 5-foot putt on the following hole. His advantage increased to 3 up after six holes when he set up another birdie by hitting a pitching wedge to within 5 feet.

“I’ve had the mindset going into match play that you are still trying to shoot a low score,” said Mancheno, who is competing in his first match-play event. “I am more worried about myself because if you shoot 68 or 69 they are probably not going to beat you.”

The U.S. Junior Amateur Championship is expected to continue 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. EDT.

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.

Brendan O’Reilly, 16, of Hinsdale, Ill., was the lone player among the lower seeds to complete his match. He defeated Connor O’Brien, 17, of Rowayton, Conn., 6 and 5. He won four consecutive holes to begin the inward nine to close out the match, making birdie on the final hole, the par-3 13th.

“I just made a lot of pars,” said O’Reilly, who shot rounds of 71 and 69 in stroke play. “I didn’t make a bogey. I just got on the green and two-putted. That was my game plan.”

Viktor Hovland, the second seed, and Travis Vick, the third seed, both trailed in their matches, which will be completed tomorrow. Hovland, 17, of Norway, was 4 down through 14 holes to Parker Gillam, 16, of Cary, N.C., while Vick, 15, of Houston, Texas, was 1 down through eight holes to Trent Phillips, 15, of Inman, S.C.

Hovland, who carded a 68 and 71 in the stroke-play portion of the championship, and Vick, who fired rounds of 69 and 70, were one stroke behind Mancheno’s pace to earn their seeds.

In first-round matches that were completed, Andy Zhang, 17, of the People’s Republic of China, made a 7-foot par putt on No. 18 to edge Joe Highsmith, 15, of Lakewood, Wash., 1 up. Zhang, who reached the Junior Amateur quarterfinals last year, got up and down from a greenside bunker, while his opponent’s errant tee shot led to a bogey.

“It wasn’t my best today,” said Zhang, who is playing in his fourth U.S. Junior Amateur. “I was just lucky enough to get through the first round. He ended up in a place you don’t want to be [a bunker short of the green with his approach shot].”

Cole Hammer, 15, of Houston, Texas, birdied holes 13 and 14 to break open his match en route to 2-and-1 victory over David Snyder, 17, of McAllen, Texas. Hammer punched a 9-iron to within 15 feet at the 133-yard, par-3 13th before making a 5-foot birdie putt on the next hole.

Hammer, who became the third-youngest competitor in U.S. Open history when he played at Chambers Bay in June, ended the match when he halved No. 17 with a par. He used a 58-degree wedge from just off the green to pitch within 2½ feet.

“It is a completely different animal,” said Hammer, who stated he had only played in three match-play tournaments prior to this week. “Anything can happen in match play. You just have to stay focused and stay patient.”

Won Jun Lee, 16, of the Republic of Korea, had to hold off a late rally by Will Thomson, 14, of Pittsford, N.Y., before winning in 19 holes. Thomson, who became youngest to play in a U.S. Amateur last year, came from 3 down by making two birdies and par on holes 16, 17 and 18, respectively.

Lee, who shared the first-round lead in stroke play and advanced to last year’s Round of 32, sank a 6-foot par putt on the first extra hole after Thomson’s 15-foot downhill attempt for par veered to the right.

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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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