Kelly Chinn has a chance to join some elite company, including one of the greatest to ever play the game.
Chinn, 18, of Great Falls, Virginia, who is headed to Duke University next month, carded a bogey-free, eight-under-par 64 on The Country Club of North Carolina’s Dogwood Course in Monday’s first round of stroke play of the 73rd US Junior Amateur Championship.
Chinn, the 2018 US Junior Amateur medallist, can join three-time champion Tiger Woods (1991-93), 1977 winner Willie Wood and 2010 champ Jim Liu as a multiple medallist. He’d love to join them as a champion as well. In his two previous starts, he was eliminated in the Round of 32 (2018) at Baltusrol Golf Club and in the semifinals (2019) at Inverness Club. The championship was canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19.
His 64 on the 7,140-yard layout surpassed the competitive course record by Australian Karl Vilips (a 65 in the 2017 Southern Amateur) and tied for the third-lowest round in US Junior Amateur history behind Gavin Hall’s 62 in 2010 and the 63 posted by Brandon Mancheno in 2017.
“Honestly today was about going out and playing some golf,” said Chinn, who was a US Amateur Four-Ball medallist with partner David Ford in May at Chambers Bay, where they lost in the quarterfinals. “I am not really focused on being medallist or anything. I have learned that in match play it doesn’t matter what seed you are. You just have to get into match play. The higher you go the lower seed you play and the more comfortable you will be and there’s less pressure.”
“Honestly today was about going out and playing some golf. I am not really focused on being medallist or anything. I have learned that in match play it doesn’t matter what seed you are." – Kelly Chinn
On Tuesday, Chinn will play the 7,164-yard, par-71 Cardinal Course, where Ford posted the best score in Round 1, a four-under 67. After an early bogey on No.12, his second hole of the day (players started on Nos. 1 and 11 on Cardinal), Ford, a lefty headed to the University of North Carolina, played five-under golf over the last 16 holes.
Both the Dogwood and Cardinal courses at CCNC are being used in stroke play with the US Junior Amateur field expanding for the first time from 156 to 264 competitors. The Dogwood will be used for all match-play rounds.
While the players didn’t have to deal with sweltering temperatures, both the morning and afternoon waves dealt with weather suspensions totaling 100 minutes due to heavy rain.
Accustomed to playing in all types of conditions, Chinn played a virtually stress-free round, buoyed by a new 5-wood in his bag. A five-foot par putt on No.10 was the closest Chinn came to making a bogey. He hit 5-wood second shots into the par-5 12th and 18th holes, converting a 40-footer for eagle on the former and a two-putt birdie on the latter.
“I feel comfortable in this situation,” said Chinn when asked about his USGA experience. “It’s been huge.”
A pair of 16-year-olds – Nathan Sampson, of Temecula, Calif., a finalist in the 2016 Drive, Chip & Putt at Augusta National, and Rylan Shim, of Centreville, Va. – registered bogey-free 67s on Dogwood. Shim, coming off a tie for 14th in last week’s PGA Junior Championship in Lexington, Ky., played his final nine holes (Dogwood’s outward nine) in four-under 32, including three consecutive birdies to finish. He rolled in putts of 30 feet (No.7), 50 feet (No.8) and 20 feet (No.9).
Nicholas Dunlap, 17, of Huntsville, Ala., a former national Punt, Pass & Kick finalist, had a bogey-free 68 on Dogwood that included an eagle-three on the 18th hole.
Top image: USGA/Chris Keane.