STRATHAM, N.H. (July 18, 2012) -- Tri-medalists Shintaro Ban, of San Jose, Calif., Nicolas Echavarria, of Colombia, and Jim Liu, of Smithtown, N.Y., and U.S. Open contender Beau Hossler, of Mission Viejo, Calif., advanced to the second round of the U.S. Junior Amateur at the 7,125-yard, par-72 Golf Club of New England.
Ban, 16, defeated Hartej Gill, 15, of Monroe Township, N.J., 4 and 3. Echavarria edged Jacob Ross, 17, of Brookhaven, Miss., 2 up. Liu defeated Nicholas Crozier, 17, of Canada, 5 and 4, and Hossler defeated Sean Smothers, 16, of Tamarac, Fla., 4 and 2.
The Echavarria-Ross match was a thrilling encounter that featured 12 birdies and an eagle. Echavarria was 2 up when Ross cut the margin in half with an eagle on the fifth hole. From the seventh through the ninth, Ross made three straight birdies and took a 2-up lead. Echavarria got one back with a birdie at the 10th before Ross again reeled off three straight birdies. Ross was 2 up after the 13th.
A steady Echavarria won the 14th and 15th with pars. He was 1 up until Ross’ par on the par-5 15th squared the match. On the par-3 17th Ross found disaster, hitting two balls into a water hazard. Echavarria went 1 up and he won the 18th, getting down in two putts from 50 feet for par and the win.
“It was tough out there,” said Echavarria, a semifinalist in 2011. “I started to play well and in 20 minutes, it seemed, he was ahead. He played great. I gave it all I had.”
Hossler’s game improved over his disappointing 77-71 in stroke play. He hit approach shots closer to the hole and regained his putting form but he got off to a slow start against Smothers. After two birdies in the first four holes, Smothers held a 1-up advantage. Hossler made five birdies in the next seven holes to go 3 up, but Smothers made what Hossler called “a nice birdie” on the 13th to reduce the margin to 2 up. Hossler won the 15th and 16th holes with pars and ended the match.
“I had it going in the middle of the round,” Hossler said. “My iron play was pretty solid. I’ve been really exhausted, to be honest with you. I’ve only had a couple of days off; that first round I was really tired. This gives me confidence going forward.”
Hossler held the lead alone at one point in the U.S. Open and the young amateur became a fan favorite. He eventually tied for 29th. In the Junior Amateur media room, sporting a 2012 U.S. Open visor and a 2011 U.S. Open logo on his shirt, Hossler compared his recent experiences.
“If I can compete with the guys on the big tour, then I should be able to do it here, but you can’t take anything for granted,” he said. “These guys are the best junior golfers in the world; you’ve got to go out and play your game and hopefully it stacks up well enough.
“But I got to get back to reality and come out here, play in the U.S. Junior Amateur, and hopefully win, that’s the goal; I can’t get ahead of myself, but I think I’m seeing where my game could possibly be in the future, and I’m comfortable with that.”
Ban, who is one of the tri-medalists, scored a win over the less experienced Gill, who was playing in his first USGA championship. Gill conceded three holes when he hit wayward tee shots on the second, seventh and 11th holes. Ban was 4 up when he gave one hole back to Gill at the par-3 14th.
“It’s kind of embarrassing,” Ban said. “I’m not used to this humid weather and my hand slipped on my tee shot and I hit it in the water.”
Ban won the par-5 15th hole, and the match, when he hit the green in two shots and two-putted for a birdie.
“Tomorrow is going to be a lot tougher,” Ban said after his 4-and-3 victory. “People win, and it’s going to get harder and harder and harder each match.”
Liu jumped to a 1-up lead over Crozier, who survived a seven-way playoff to make match play, with a birdie on the first hole. Liu was 3 up at the turn and won the 11th hole with a birdie and the 12th hole with a par to take a 5-up lead. The match ended on the 14th green.
Andy Zhang, 14, of the Peoples Republic of China, the youngest U.S. Open contestant in history, lost his first-round match to Sam Horsfield, of Davenport, Fla., 5 and 4. While Zhang missed the cut in the Open, he had hoped for better results in the Junior Amateur.
“I couldn’t get my driver going the whole week,” Zhang said. “I didn’t play as good as I wanted. He’s such a great player and hit the ball really straight. But I understand. I’ve played five weeks in a row and haven’t had any time to practice.”
The U.S. Junior Amateur, one of 13 national championships conducted by the United States Golf Association, continues with four more rounds of match play on Thursday and Friday. A scheduled 36-hole match on Saturday will decide the champion.
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