Upsets abound as U.S. Junior field trimmed to eight
USGA photo
USGA photo

Preston Summerhays, 16, of Scottsdale, Ariz., held off Akshay Bhatia, 17, of Wake Forest, N.C., the 2018 runner-up, 1 up, to gain a spot in the quarterfinal round of the 72nd U.S. Junior Amateur Championship on Thursday at Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio.

Bhatia, who at No. 4 is by far the highest-ranked player in the Junior Amateur field in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR), had twice battled back from deficits to square the match with Summerhays, the final time with a winning par on the 490-yard, par-4 17th hole. But Bhatia sailed his approach shot over the green on the 367-yard 18th and failed to get up and down for par. No. 11 seed Summerhays coaxed his 7-foot birdie putt to within tap-in range for a conceded par and his second win of the day.

“I knew it was going to be a tough match against Preston,” said Bhatia, the No. 6 seed, who lost to Michael Thorbjornsen, 1 up, last July at Baltusrol Golf Club in the final. “The adrenaline got to me [on the approach shot on No. 18]. Just overshot the green, and the rough is penalizing. Preston hit a great shot, and I would have expected him to make the putt if he needed to.”

Last year’s champion Thorbjornsen, of Wellesley, Mass., was ousted on Thursday morning by Palmer Jackson, of Murrysville, Pa. Jackson, the No. 28 seed, led the defending champion, 2 up, through 11 holes, but Thorbjornsen rallied to tie the match with a birdie on the 460-yard, par-4 16th hole. Jackson regained the lead with a par on No. 17 and clinched the win by chipping in from the back edge of the green for a birdie on No. 18. The loss by No. 5-seeded Thorbjornsen, who made the cut in the U.S. Open last month at Pebble Beach, completed the ouster of seeds 1 through 5 in the match-play bracket in Wednesday morning’s Round of 32.

No. 8 Bo Jin, 17, of the People’s Republic of China, is the highest remaining seed after he defeated Jack Wall, of Brielle, N.J., 3 and 2, in the morning, and Brian Ma, of Milpitas, Calif., 2 up, in the afternoon. Jin’s older brother, Cheng Jin, reached the Round of 64 and Round of 32 in two starts in this championship.

No. 23 seed Joseph Pagdin of England ousted Ohio native Maxwell Moldovan, 4 and 3, in the afternoon after completing a dramatic rally in the morning. Pagdin, 17, who is No. 41 in the WAGR, highest of the quarterfinalists, was 3 down to Yuki Moriyama of Japan through 13 holes, but won four holes, three of them with birdies, to escape in 19 holes. The key was a curling 30-foot putt on No. 18 that forced extra holes.

Moldovan’s defeat left Austin Greaser, the No. 19 seed, as the last player standing from the championship’s home state. Greaser, 18, hails from Vandalia, a suburb of Dayton. He got to the quarterfinals with victories over No. 51 seed Thomas Ponder (1 up) and No. 30 Kento Yamawaki (5 and 3).

“It's really cool to have this tournament in Ohio, only about two hours from my house,” said Greaser, who will attend the University of North Carolina in the fall. “I’ve had people on the range say, let’s go Austin, let’s go, Greaser. They want to see an Ohio boy go far. It’s really exciting.”

No. 16 seed Devin Ramachandran, of San Rafael, Calif., outlasted the 2017 Asia-Pacific Amateur champion, Yuxin Lin, of the People’s Republic of China, 1 up, in a seesaw Round-of-32 match that featured five lead changes. Ramachandran, who just completed his freshman year at Seton Hall University, went on to eliminate Jacob Sosa, of Austin, Texas, 3 and 2 in the afternoon.

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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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