Philip Barbaree etches name on U.S. Junior Amateur trophy
2015 U.S. Junior Amateur winner Philip Barbaree<Br>(Photo courtesy of Darren Carroll/USGA)
2015 U.S. Junior Amateur winner Philip Barbaree
(Photo courtesy of Darren Carroll/USGA)

BLUFFTON, S.C. — Philip Barbaree, 17, of Shreveport, La., matched the largest comeback in U.S. Junior Amateur Championship history in defeating Andrew Orischak, 16, of Hilton Head Island, S.C., in Saturday’s final match.

Trailing 5 down with eight holes remaining, Barbaree, No. 59 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™, managed to rally for a 37-hole win on the 7,366-yard, par-72 Colleton River Plantation Club’s Dye Course. It was the most holes played in championship history since the USGA went to a 36-hole final 10 years ago.

In becoming the first Louisiana resident to win the U.S. Junior Amateur since Willie Wood (Lake Charles) in 1977, Barbaree matched Andy Hyeon Bo Shim’s comeback three years ago at the Golf Club of New Hampshire for the largest comeback in the event’s 68-year history. Shim trailed 2010 champion Jim Liu, 5 down, at the lunch break before winning eight of the next 10 holes for a 4-and-3 victory.

Barbaree chose a much later stage for his epic rally.

For a player who shares the same Dallas-based instructor (Cameron McCormick) as 2015 U.S. Open champion Jordan Spieth, Barbaree’s comeback was more similar to another multiple U.S. Junior Amateur champion: Tiger Woods. Woods rallied from 2 down with two to play to claim the last of his three consecutive titles in 1993. He also came back in the final match of all three of his consecutive U.S. Amateur victories from 1994-96.

Barbaree joins Woods and Spieth on the U.S. Junior Amateur Trophy, along with the likes of Johnny Miller, Hunter Mahan, David Duval and Gary Koch.

“It’s definitely the biggest junior tournament out there and to win it means a lot,” said Barbaree, who received a congratulatory text messages from McCormick. “It says a lot about how much I’ve been practicing for this and how hard I’ve been working for this.”

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. It consists of 36 holes of stroke play, followed by five rounds of match play leading to the 36-hole final.

As champion, Barbaree, a rising junior at C.E. Byrd High, receives exemptions into the next two U.S. Amateurs – next month’s championship at Olympia Fields (Ill.) Country Club and at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., in 2016. He also is exempt from U.S. Open local qualifying for the next three years. Orischak also is exempt into the 2015 U.S. Amateur and from U.S. Open local qualifying next year.

A large gallery of approximately 500 spectators watched the final match on a sun-splashed day, the first since Monday’s opening round of stroke play that was not affected by a weather delay. Because of those suspensions, Barbaree played 84 holes in two days, and he admitted to being low on energy by the afternoon portion of the final match.

“I got four or five hours of sleep [Friday] night,” said Barbaree. “Then to come out and play 84 holes, I had no idea how to do it.”

Most of the gallery, however, came to support Orischak, a rising junior at nearby Hilton Head High who plays out of Long Cove Club.

And Orischak was in full control of the match with eight holes remaining. That’s when the 11th hole, the same par 5 where he started his morning rally to go from 3 down to all square, became pivotal again.

Barbaree got up and down for birdie to end an 18-hole winless streak that stretched back to the par-4 10th hole in the morning. Another birdie on the par-4 30th hole (No. 12 on the course) trimmed Orischak’s lead to 3 up.

Two holes later, the margin was down to two, and when Barbaree registered a winning par on the 33rd hole, Orischak’s lead was only 1 up. It stayed that way until the par-4 36th hole, where Orischak, No. 631 in the WAGR, pushed his tee shot out of bounds. When Barbaree coaxed his birdie putt to a foot for a conceded par, the match headed to extra holes, the first in a U.S. Junior Amateur final in 13 years.

Orischak admitted that he might have thought too much about having his name engraved on the trophy before completing the task.

“The whole week I just said I was going to hit one shot at a time and I thought that the mentally toughest person was going to win,” said Orischak. “And it wasn’t me because I got ahead of myself. I was thinking about winning before the match was over, and I still had golf to be played.”

Playing the par-4 15th hole, Orischak again was errant off the tee, this time pulling his drive left into high rough. His approach flew the green and found a dirt cart path. After taking relief twice for tire tracks that impeded his stance and swing, he failed to reach the green with his third. Barbaree, meanwhile, found the green with his approach and a three-putt bogey was good enough to take the title.

“I was thinking [on the green], don’t get emotional now,” said Barbaree. “After he hit over the green, something hit me. I knew there was a possibility of him two-putting for bogey. I was just doing my job of two-putting. I really didn’t have the speed [on the greens] all day … and I lagged my 3-footer [for par]. I’m happy about it, too.”

Although he posted 1-over 145 in stroke play, Barbaree continued to elevate his game throughout match play, despite all the delays. On Saturday morning, he finished his suspended semifinal match against Won Jun Lee, 16, of the Republic of Korea, with a 1-up win. The match was halted due to darkness on Friday with the match all square through 17. They reached the 18th tee at the same time Orischak, who played 48 holes on Friday, completed his 3-and-2 semifinal win over Eugene Hong, 15, of Sanford, Fla.

The final began as if Barbaree might run away with this championship. He built a 3-up lead after 10 holes before Orischak, the runner-up in last year’s South Carolina 3A high school state tournament, won three consecutive holes with birdies. He later birdied the par-5 16th and added a winning par on No. 18 for a 2-up lead at the lunch break.

Buoyed by that momentum and the supportive gallery, Orischak birdied the first two holes of the afternoon round, including a 22-footer on the 19th, for a 4-up lead. Barbaree lipped out a 5-foot par putt to lose the 25th hole and go 5 down. The status remained that way for the next four holes before Barbaree began his historic comeback.

Story by David Shefter of the USGA

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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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