Joshua Bai and Bryan Kim (USGA Photo)
, 18, of Brookeville, Md., and Joshua Bai
, 17, of New Zealand, each won quarterfinal and semifinal matches in at times rainy conditions on Friday to advance to Saturday’s 36-hole final match of the 75th U.S. Junior Amateur Championship
at the par-72, 7,262-yard Daniel Island Club at the Ralston Creek Course.
Kim, who did not qualify for match play in his previous two U.S. Junior Amateur appearances, defeated Will Hartman
16, of Charlotte, N.C., 2 and 1, in the semifinals. Bai, who is attempting to become the fourth New Zealander to win a USGA championship, joining Michael Campbell, Danny Lee and Lydia Ko, held off Billy Davis
, 17, of Spring Valley, Calif., 3 and 1.
“I didn't even imagine this last year after missing the cut, and the year before, but I knew my game this year was in a good spot, said Kim, who will be a freshman at Duke University next month.
“I didn't have the tournament results that I wanted earlier this summer, but I knew I was coming around, just working a lot on my game, and I felt like I was kind of due to play some good golf, so hopefully I can keep it up and maybe bring home the title.”
Kim made a short birdie putt on the drivable par-4 eighth hole and sank a left-to-right breaking 15-footer for another birdie on the following hole to build a 3-up lead. He held that the rest of the way against his East teammate from the recent American Junior Golf Association’s Wyndham Cup
Bai, a match play qualifier in his first Junior Amateur last year at Bandon Dunes, constructed a commanding 5-up margin with birdies on hole Nos. 11 and 12 in his semifinal. He holed a 25-footer from across the green and followed with a precise 4-iron to the 234-yard, par-3 12th.
From there, Davis made a late run with back-to-back birdies on 15 and 16 before Bai closed out the match with an approach shot to 5 feet on No. 17. His birdie was conceded when Davis failed to hole a chip from the fringe.
“It's really cool,” said Bai about playing for a national championship and a 2024 U.S. Open exemption. “Just thinking about how the Kiwi Michael Campbell, how he won at Pinehurst, and how cool it to be to follow in his footsteps and try to be there. It would mean a lot.”
In the morning quarterfinals, Kim birdied the last two holes to overcome Edan Cui, 16, of Stanford, Calif., to post a 1-up victory. He got up-and-down from a greenside bunker on the drivable, 303-yard, par-4 17th and then delivered a 128-yard gap wedge on No. 18 to within 11 feet to set up the winning putt.
“It feels really good,” said Kim, about seeing that birdie putt on No. 18 find the hole. “I play golf for moments like this, and just like I knew it was in right when I hit it. There's no better feeling.”
Bai won the last three holes in his quarterfinal match with Zeqian Fang, 18, of the People’s Republic of China, to record a 2-up decision. After a par won No. 16, he nearly drove the 17th green, leading to a conceded birdie. His 97-yard third shot on the par-5 18th hole nestled to 12 feet, which he didn’t have to putt after Fang missed his birdie attempt.
“I just stayed patient,” said Bai, who rallied from 4 down and 2 down in his previous two matches. “Did the same thing, kept hitting fairways, kept hitting greens, put the pressure on my opponent, and yeah, I just took the opportunities and managed to get it done.”
Hartman, who celebrated his 17th birthday on Friday, got his party started by winning three consecutive holes on the inward nine to build a 2-up lead in his quarterfinal against top seed and medalist Tommy Morrison, 18, of Dallas, Texas. After the rising University of Texas sophomore posted a par to win No. 12 to slice the deficit in half, Hartman birdied the next two holes, including the 13th when he chipped in from five yards in front of the green, en route to the 1-up victory.
“[I] definitely got a break there, said Hartman, who used a 58-degree wedge to hole the shot. “I actually chipped in, and he had about 20 feet for birdie, and I think if I didn't make it, he probably would have made it. But match play stuff happened, and it ended up flipping.”
“I think I had opportunities early that I didn't convert on,” said Morrison, the first No. 1 seed to reach the quarterfinals since 2017. “Will took over there for a little bit in the middle of the round. He played really steady all day.”
Davis, whose twin sister, Anna, claimed last year’s Augusta National Women’s Amateur
, won five consecutive holes on the outward nine to register a 6-and-4 decision over hometown favorite Rowan Sullivan, 18, of Charleston, S.C. Davis ignited that run with a 12-foot birdie putt on No. 7 after his opponent had chipped in for a par. He added birdies on Nos. 8 and 10 when he stuffed approached shots, the first one with a gap wedge and the second with an 8-iron.
Davis said he welcomed all of Sullivan’s support that came out to cheer on the Charleston native. “It was kind of good for me because it kind of motivated me more to hit better shots,” said Davis. “He would hit one close, and they'd all cheer for him, and I'd try to hit one even better.”