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U.S. Junior: Wenyi Ding becomes first Chinese male USGA champion
Wenyi Ding (left) is the first USGA champion from China
Wenyi Ding (left) is the first USGA champion from China

An epic comeback by Caleb Surratt came to halt on the famous 16th hole at Bandon Dunes, when his birdie putt slid by, allowing Wenyi Ding to two-putt for a 3-and-2 victory. The margin of victory sounds pretty routine, but it was anything but.

It was an emotional moment for champion Wenyi Ding, who established an 8-up dormie lead after 28 holes, but was only 3-up after 33 holes. Wing got the match to that seemingly insurmountable point by playing bogey-free golf from the first tee shot through the 10th hole of their second 18, and most people likely thought the match would end at No. 11 or 12.

But a wayward Wing drive led to a penalty and loss of hole at No. 11, and Surratt's unlikely comeback continued with a birdie putt on the par-3 12th, and a gorgeous second shot to 20-feet, leading to another birdie at No. 13.

Still, all Ding needed was a single tied hole to be crowned champion. But not so fast.

With both players in close for birdie on No. 14, Ding missed, and Surratt made. Then Surratt hit his best shot of the day -- especially under the circumstances -- at the amazingly difficult 15th hole, a par-3 that requires a perfect shot to find any part of the green. At just 20-feet from the back-left hole location, Surratt would watch Ding miss his tee shot left, then look briefly like any of the tens of thousands of "everyman" and woman golfers who routinely struggle chipping around the hole's extreme plateau green complex.

Despite the long odds of even getting to the 16th hole, Surratt finally gave way to the pressure when his chip from pin high on the driveable par-4 bounced left instead of the way he was trying to get it to go, right down a slope and around the bunker that blocked his way to the hole. He might have tried a more direct line to the hole, but under the pressure of the moment Surratt went with the shot he saw -- it just didn't work out the way he wanted.

"There are definitely some shots I would like to have back," said Surratt after the round. "But hopefully, it won't be my last USGA final."

Ding becomes the first male golfer from the People's Republic of China to win a USGA championship. (Lei Ye (2019 U.S. Women's Amateur) and Fumei Alice Jo (2014 U.S. Public Links) have done so on the women's side.)

Moved to tears after two-putting for the win, he admitted in an interview that he became very nervous starting at the 13th hole.

And who wouldn't be? With so much on the line, and a charging opponent, the 17-year-old kept grinding until the trophy, and a spot in the 2023 U.S. Open at Los Angeles Country Club, was his.

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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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