BREMERTON, WASH.(July 20, 2011) – It certainly wasn’t the start stroke-play medalist Beau Hossler wanted in the first round of match play Wednesday at the 2011 U.S. Junior Amateur at the par-72, 7,111-yard Olympic Course at Gold Mountain Golf Club.
Miller Capps, 17, of Denver, N.C., made a 20-foot birdie putt to win the first hole, and then the 16-year-old Hossler, of Mission, Viejo, Calif., found trouble on the next three – with back-to-back double bogeys on Nos. 2 and 3 and a bogey on the fourth hole. After four holes, Hossler found himself 4 down.
“I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ ” said Hossler. “It would be something else if he birdied every hole, but I was just handing him holes by hitting it out of play on a wide-open golf course, and you just can’t do that.”
But Hossler, who played in last month’s U.S. Open, wasn’t overly concerned.
“Once I was 4 down, I wasn’t afraid of losing more holes,” said Hossler. “I knew I was going to make birdies because I have been making birdies all week. I was just waiting for it and I kind of felt it click a little bit on that par-3 tee shot on 5.”
Hossler hit that tee shot to 12 feet and birdied the hole to cut the deficit to 3 down. He went on to make six more birdies en route to a 3-and-2 victory.
“I played all right but I didn’t play good enough,” said Capps, who had earned the last spot in match play via a playoff Tuesday. “It’s hard to stay up when they start making birdies like that.”
The two U.S. Junior Amateur champions in the field – 2010 winner Jim Liu, 15, of Smithtown, N.Y., and 2009 champion Jordan Spieth, 17, of Dallas, Texas – also earned first-round wins to advance. Both are trying to join Tiger Woods as just the second player in the championship’s 64-year history to claim more than one U.S. Junior Amateur title.
Like Hossler, Liu fell behind early in his first-round match against Nicolo Galletti, 16, of Clayton, Calif. But he rallied to square the match with a birdie at No. 9 and took his first lead one hole later.
Liu closed out Galletti on the 461-yard, par-4 17th when he hit a 7-iron from 173 yards to 3 inches. Galletti conceded Liu’s birdie and was unable to match from off the fringe, giving Liu a 2-and-1 victory.
Liu, who last year surpassed Woods as the youngest winner in the championship’s 64-year history, said he drew on his experience to help him during the tight match against Galletti.
“It helps because coming down the stretch you can draw back on other matches that you’ve played that were similar to this and that helped me today,” said Liu.
Spieth never trailed against 16-year-old Blake Toolan, of Phoenix, Ariz., en route to a 4-and-3 victory. With the usual match-play concessions, Spieth was the equivalent of two under par, with five birdies and three bogeys.
Spieth, an experienced match-play competitor, admitted that is an advantage.
“I think experience pays off and I know this week I probably have the most experience here,” said Spieth. “[Match play] really is a different game. You’re really just strictly playing off what your opponent does. It makes me more confident to know that I’ve gone through all this more than anyone else here has. I think that is going to help as the week goes on, hopefully for a while.”
Four first-round matches were extended to extra holes, including the match between Will Starke, 17, of Chapin, S.C, and Brian Bullington, 17, of Frankfort, Ill. Starke, who finished second to Hossler in stroke-play qualifying, needed 19 holes to outlast Bullington. Other extra-hole winners were Scottie Scheffler, 15, of Dallas, Texas; Stuart Thomas, 16, of Knoxville, Tenn.; and Wesley Gosselin, 17, of Knoxville, Ind., who needed 23 holes to advance.
The U.S. Junior Amateur field continues with the second and third rounds of match play Thursday. The quarterfinal and semifinal matches will be played Friday and the 36-hole championship final will be played Saturday.The U.S. Junior Amateur is one of 13 championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association each year, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
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