In an all-Texas final, Cory Whitsett, 15, of Houston, took a commanding 5-up lead after 18 holes and defeated Anthony Paolucci, 14, of Dallas, 8 and 7, to win the 2007 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at Boone Valley Golf Club Saturday.
"It’s going to be pretty cool to know that no matter what happens my name will be there,” Whitsett said of joining the list of Junior Amateur champions.
He is the fifth Junior Amateur champion to have won at age 15. The others are Tiger Woods (1991), Sihwan Kim (2004), Mike Brannan (1971) and Henry Liaw (2001).
Whitsett and Paolucci are the youngest set of finalists since Kim and David Chung (14) in 2004. In addition, the left-handed Whitsett is the first champion from Texas since Matthew Rosenfeld of Plano won in 2000.
"I accomplished a lot more than I expected,” Paolucci said. “Corey played solidly all day. I think he made two bogeys all day. He deserved it.”
" wanted to go out and win if I had come this far,” Whitsett said. “So, I really felt like I should have won. I played well enough, which is basically all that matters.”
For the 29 holes of the match, the 5-foot-11, 160-pound Whitsett was the stroke play equivalent of three under par with the usual match play concessions. Paolucci, meanwhile, was equivalent of eight over par.
For the match, Whitsett hit 17 of 23 fairways and 19 of 29 greens compared to 18 of 23 fairways and 22 of 29 greens for Paolucci.
"Most of the day, I struck the ball as well as I did all week but I wasn’t rolling the ball good on the greens,” Paolucci said. “I either misread it, the speed was off or I hit a bad putt which would cause the ball not to go in the hole.”
Paolucci, the youngest finalist since 2004, held a 2-up lead after an 8-foot birdie putt on the par-5 6th hole. Except for a chip-in par by Whitsett at the third hole, Paolucci’s lead would have been 3-up.
At the next tee, Whitsett made his key move of the day. Paolucci, with honors, hit his tee shot in the water and then recovered for a handy par. However, Whitsett, a rising sophomore at Houston’s Memorial High School, hit his second shot to 3 feet and converted the birdie putt for his first lead, one he never relinquished.
Whitsett, an honorable mention junior golf All-American as a high school freshman, then won four more holes (8 through 11) that converted a 2-up Paolucci lead to his 3-up advantage.
Paolucci, a 5-foot-11, 130-pound freshman to be at St. Mark’s High School in Dallas, won only two more holes the rest of the day.
In the afternoon 18, Whitsett kept the pressure on and extended his lead to 8 up when Paolucci three-putted the 28th hole from 25 feet. The 29th hole and the match were conceded when Whitsett’s 18-foot chip stopped 3 feet short of the flagstick.
Each of the finalists is exempt from qualifying for the 2007 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, Calif., from Aug. 20-26.
The champion receives a gold medal and custody of a replica of the Junior Amateur Championship Trophy for the ensuing year. The champion also receives an exemption into the 2008 British Amateur.
The USGA is the national governing body of golf in this country and Mexico, a combined territory that includes more than half the game’s golfers and golf courses.
The Association's most visible role is played out each season in conducting 13 national championships, including the U.S. Open, U.S. Women's Open and U.S. Senior Open. Ten additional USGA national championships are exclusively for amateurs, and include the Junior Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and the U.S. Women's Amateur.