Tommy Morrison (USGA Photo)
made three birdies on the inward nine to post a 2-and-1 victory on Wednesday, advancing to the second round of match play in the 2023 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship
at the par-72, 7,236-yard Daniel Island Club (Ralston Creek Course). Morrison, 18, of Dallas, Texas, the medalist and top seed, defeated Johnnie Clark, 18, of Mesa, Ariz., in the Round of 64.
“There’s a little bit of unnecessary pressure added when you are the first seed,” said Morrison, who advanced to the Round of 16 in this year’s Amateur Championship in England. “I felt I handled it okay. I let a couple of holes get away from me. Johnnie (Clark) hit some quality shots and he earned those holes.”
Morrison, who played this past spring at the University of Texas, gained a 1-up lead on the par-5 11th by taking advantage of his length off the tee. His second shot, a 5-iron, found a greenside bunker and he got up-and-down for birdie. He added another birdie on No. 14 and was conceded a 10-foot birdie putt on the following hole for a 3-up margin.
But Morrison knows he needs to get better moving forward. “I need to stay in my own box the rest of the week, meaning stay in the present and understand where I am at. I did a poor job today of letting my mind wander. That needs to improve because the second that happens things can go downhill quickly. [I am] looking to improve my mindset because I know my golf game is there right now.”
It was ecstasy and agony for two area players following a weather delay of one hour and 57 minutes. Rowan Sullivan, 18, of Charleston, S.C., birdied the 18th and 19th holes to rally against Jon Ed Steed, 17, of Enterprise, Ala. Meanwhile, Matt Moloney, of Daniel Island, S.C., fell in his extra-hole battle with Gerardo Gomez, 17, of Mexico. In addition, Andrew Gregory, of Spartanburg, S.C., lost his match as the No. 2 seed in the bracket.
“We both traded blows in the beginning, then he built a lead when I made some mistakes, but I never gave up,” said Sullivan, who also reached the Round of 32 in the 2021 U.S. Junior Amateur. “I knew that my game was there. To win, you have to play the whole match well, so I kept playing.”
Sullivan, who won last year’s Class 3A independent state high school title, trailed by as much as three holes, but drew even when he canned a 20-footer for birdie on the par-5 18th. He secured the match on No. 19, Ralston Creek’s first hole, with a 100-yard approach to within 3 feet to set up the winning putt.
Tyler Sanford, who earned the No. 3 seed with two bogey-free rounds in stroke play, knocked out Ratchanon Tk Chantananuwat, 16, of Thailand, 6 and 4. Chantananuwat, who became the first amateur to win on the Asian Tour since 2009. He survived a stroke-play playoff earlier in the day.
“I knew his background because my cousin sent it to me this morning,” said Sanford, 16, of Montgomery, Texas. “But my mentality was that I beat him in stroke play so I might as well beat him in match play.”
Sanford, who finished fourth in this year’s Class 5A state championship, won three consecutive holes twice throughout the match. He laid up off the tee with a 5-wood on No. 8 and made a 10-footer for birdie and was 4 up after nine holes. Sanford later hit a 7-iron to within 6 feet to set up a birdie on the par-3 12th and closed out the victory on No. 14 when he struck a 70-yard wedge to close range for another birdie.
Bryan Kim, 18, of Brookeville, Md. made the most of his match play bid for the first time in three attempts at the U.S. Junior Amateur. In one of the marquee matches of the first round, he defeated Jackson Byrd, 16, of St. Simons Island, Ga., 6 and 5.
Kim went 3 up early when he two-putted for birdie on the par-5 sixth. He later took advantage of another par 5 by hitting his second shot, a 250-yard, 3-iron, to the fringe which led to another birdie. He increased his lead on the par-3 12th with a 5-foot birdie putt on the same hole in made a “7” in the first round of stroke play.
“I never saw myself as a great match-play player,” said Kim, who will attend the Duke University in the fall. “At Wyndham Cup I learned to just keep the pedal down, don’t get complacent especially when you are up. It’s all about momentum. You have to keep the hammer down and win as many holes as you can.”
Carson Looney, 16, of Bethesda, Md., turned in the best comeback of the opening round. He was 3 down with three holes to play but rallied to win in 20 holes against Kihei Akina, 17, of Alpine, Utah. Looney birdied Nos. 17 and 18, including a 20-footer to send the match to extra holes. He would advance to the next round when he lagged his birdie attempt to 12 inches for a winning par.
Lightning also literally struck for Pongsapak Laopakdee, 18, of Thailand, who recovered from being 3 down in the late going. Laopakdee, who signed to play at Arizona State University in 2023-24, waited out the afternoon weather delay to deliver a 10-foot birdie putt that decided his 19-hole match with Caolan Burford, 18, of Wales.