Welch, 14, of Providence, R.I., has a noticeably different swing than the rest of the field in this week’s U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at The Club at Carlton Woods’ Nicklaus Course. The right-handed Welch swings cross-handed, meaning his left hand is below his right on the grip.
Welch’s cross-handed path began about 11 years ago when his father, Martin, armed young Patrick with a small club and took him to hit balls at San Francisco’s Lincoln Park Golf Course.
It felt comfortable and I have stayed with it ever since, said Welch, who shot a 3-over-par 75 in the first round of stroke-play qualifying on Monday.
Does he want to switch to a more conventional swing?
Nope, he replied.
Does he want an instructor to help him?
Nope, he replied again.
Welch said he gets some pointers from his father on moving through the swing, but that is about all. So whom does he turn to when his swing gets a little off kilter?
Well, Josh Broadaway, who has played the last nine seasons on the Web.com Tour swings cross-handed. The two players met about five years ago at a Web.com event and Broadaway basically told Welch to make sure he rotates his shoulders through the swing.
Welch, who was the youngest player in last year’s U.S. Junior Amateur field, also is notable for having sunk a putt on the 18th green at Augusta National to win the 2014 Boys 14-15 Division of the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship in April.
Winning that was a real confidence-builder, Welch said. I haven’t played in a lot of big competitions, so that helped me gain some.
The Comforts of Home
For Brady Price, this week’s U.S. Junior Amateur Championship is a home game – sort of.
Price, of The Woodlands, lives minutes from The Club at Carlton Woods, but he had only played the Nicklaus Course four times prior to Monday’s opening round.
Given his lack of course knowledge, Price was pleased with his 1-over 73, which included a double bogey on his first hole and four birdies for a 2-under 34 on the inward nine.
I think I exceeded my expectations, said Price, 17, who is playing in his first USGA championship. I had a little bit of nerves on the front nine, but overall I think I handled it all pretty well. If I can clean up the front nine tomorrow, I may be pretty good.
Price, who received honorable mention all-state honors playing for The Woodlands High School, is enjoying the regular rhythms of being at home – eating home-cooked meals, sleeping in his own bed, hanging out with friends.
I guess there are pros and cons to being at home, he said.
Monday’s 73 had to be placed in the pros column.
Aussies Traveling, Playing Well
Ryan Ruffels and Zach Murray are a little tired these days, but it certainly did not show in their respective opening rounds at the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship.
Both players, who hail from Australia, shot even-par 72 and are in the midst of global travels.
Ruffels, 16, of Melbourne, is fresh off winning the Callaway Golf Junior World Championships in San Diego and this championship marks his fourth start in less than a month. He began July playing in the North & South Championship in Pinehurst, N.C., but failed to qualify for match play. He tied for ninth at The Players Amateur in Hilton Head, S.C., and then flew cross country to San Diego.
Yeah, I’m getting a little tired, said Ruffels, who is ranked No. 44 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™, but any time you can win, it is always good for your confidence. The field wasn’t as strong [in San Diego] as it is here, but I’m still feeling good about my game.
Murray, 17, of Wodonga, will head to the United Kingdom to play in a series of tournaments after this week. He was more fazed by the heat than the travels.
I got here Thursday, said Murray, who played two practice rounds and walked a third round in prepping for this week. I love it here. It’s a bit warm for my liking, but we get this kind of weather back home, so I am a little used to it.
Fellow countrymen Curtis Luck and Jack Trent join Murray and Ruffels in the field. Luck, ranked No. 110 by WAGR, shot 75, while Trent shot a 6-over 78.
Murray said there is no extra pressure that comes from traveling such great distances.
The biggest pressure is the pressure I put on myself, said Murray, ranked No. 208 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. If I don’t play well and advance, then that’s on me, nobody else.
While Murray will continue eastbound across the Atlantic after this week, Ruffels will take a short respite. After a Nike club fitting in Dallas, Ruffels will fly to Southern California to go deep-sea fishing with a family friend before flying to Atlanta for the U.S. Amateur Aug. 11-17 at the Atlanta Athletic Club.
After that, I will be ready to head back home, Ruffels said.
Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites.