When 156 qualifiers descend on Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield for the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship the week of July 23-29, they will hope to replicate something that Tiger Woods did three times and Jordan Spieth twice – win the championship.
Jack Wall of Manasquan River, the current NJSGA Junior Champion, a junior at Christian Brothers Academy in Lincroft, hopes to be among them. There is something more at stake as well. For the first time, the champion will receive an exemption into the U.S. Open.
It will be the 16th USGA championship to be played at Baltusrol’s hallowed grounds, dating back to the 1901 U.S. Women’s Amateur (won by Genevieve Hecker). But it will be the first U.S. Junior Amateur, for players 18 and younger, contested there.
“This is in keeping with how this club was founded and has evolved. We are delighted to have the junior golfers here. It’s who we are and it’s in our DNA,” said Rick Shea, Baltusrol president.
For the first time, the stroke-play qualifying will be conducted over two courses, namely Baltusrol’s Upper and Lower Courses. Both courses will play at a length of around 7,300 yards.
“This July, the USGA is proud of hosting this event at one of golf’s historic venues. The USGA is looking forward to adding another chapter of history here at Baltusrol,” said Reese Moseley, Championship Manager of the event.
Wall, 17, qualified for the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship in 2016, which was played at The Honors Course in Ooltewah, Tenn., but he didn’t make it past the stroke-play portion. He hopes things are different in 2018.
“I’ve been working on my ball striking and getting the ball in play; also, on my putting and my short game. That way, if I’m not hitting it well, I can still shoot a good number,” said Wall, who has had an excellent spring. He won the Monmouth County Championship, then took the Shore Conference Tournament championship, winning in a three-hole playoff after shooting an even-par 72 at Charleston Springs G.C. in Millstone on April 23.
Wall has been invited to play in the prestigious 101st Western Junior Amateur Championship, June 18-21, at Evanston Golf Club in Skokie, Ill. A year ago, Wall finished eighth in the event.
“I’ve been fortunate to play Baltusrol a couple of times. I expect it to be firm and fast. The course will play at 7,300 yards, which isn’t that much of a problem for these guys. Putting and the short game will be the key to winning the U.S. Junior Amateur,” Wall said. “It would mean the world to me to be able to play in it this year in my home state.”