HIGHTSTOWN, NJ - Just a mere 12 hours after Brooks Koepka was crowned U.S. Open Champion, Maplewood’s Patrick Ryan and South Orange’s Carter Nunez each took their own shot at advancing to a USGA Championship on Monday, June 19.
Among a field of 74 golfers, Ryan and Nunez participated in a U.S. Junior Amateur Sectional Qualifying tournament on Monday at the Peddie Golf Club in Hightstown. Up for grabs were two spots, along with two alternates, to the 70th annual U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at Flint Hills National Golf Club in Andover, Kansas July 17 to July 22.
At the end of the day, not only did Ryan have a shot, he solidified his spot and now will make travel plans for mid-July.
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Ryan, who recently completed his junior year at Morristown-Beard and was selected to third-team All-State honors by NJ.com a week ago, started his morning hot with two birdies over his first four holes, draining a 15-footer on the par-3, 111-yard third hole and backed it up with another birdie from six feet out on the par-4, 378-yard fourth hole.
Ryan then bogeyed holes five and seven and finished his front nine with an even-par 36.
“The bogey on seven I wanted to bogey there because my tee shot was bad and my second shot was in the hazard, so I got the bogey and thankfully not worse and then parred the next two holes, which gave me a boost of confidence,” said Ryan.
Opening his back nine with a birdie on the par-4, 376-yard 10th hole to move back into red numbers at 1-under-par, Ryan saved his best for last with a crucial, yet remarkable, eagle on the par-5, 488-yard 14th hole to move to his final score of 3-under 69 (36-33) on the par 72, 6,265-yard layout to claim the second spot to advance.
Douglas Ergood of Mount Laurel posted the top score of the day and earned medalist honors with a 5-under-par 67 (32-35).
“I used my hybrid on the second shot to just short of the green and I chipped in from about 30 feet out for eagle,” said a smiling Ryan, who was playing in his first-ever sectional qualifying tournament for the U.S. Junior Amateur. “I then had par saves coming in and I just missed my birdie putt on 18. I’m really happy with my round. I didn’t expect to shoot 3-under, but I’m glad I did.”
Ryan helped lead Morristown-Beard (19-3) to a final No. 7 ranking in the NJ.com Top 10, a second Morris County Tournament championship, a Prep B crown, and a NJSIAA North Jersey, Non-Public B Championship for the first time in school history, all under the tutelage of NJ.com Boys Golf Coach of the Year, Harry Carr, who just completed his sixth season at the helm.
“The season has been going great. We really finished out the year strong as a team,” said Ryan, who had his best friend and St. Peter’s Prep lacrosse player, Ryan Kirkwood, on the bag. “I feel like I’ve been getting better as I practice and play more consistently and I feel like I have more under-par rounds in me.”
Ryan’s schedule is full throughout the summer as he will attempt to qualify for the MET Open and the New Jersey State Open, along with some AJGA events over the next few months.
Future tournament fields watch out because as Kirkwood said after his round, “He was pretty lights out today.”
Nunez, age 16, who just completed his sophomore year at Columbia High School, had a late morning tee time of 11:30 a.m. in his second-ever shot at making the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship.
After a 3-over 39 on his front nine with a double bogey on the par-4, 378-yard fourth hole, Nunez posted two bogeys on the back nine on holes 12 and 15 to finish his day with a 5-over-par 77 (39-38) to finish in a 10-way tie for 24th place.
“The golf course played shorter but firmer and it was challenging to gauge the distance due to the fact that it was so burnt out from the sun and wind. I have been struggling recently and knew it was a mental hurdle that I needed to overcome. I started my season off great, two top 10s and a 2-over-par 73 at the U.S. Open Local Qualifier in May. I looked at today as an opportunity to bounce back and post a decent score,” said Nunez, who also will run Cross Country in the fall for Columbia.
“I game-planned this golf course to my strengths, which are shorter wedges and irons. I hit driver once today and the rest I laid back with 3-wood and hybrid to guarantee myself a solid position. After I took a double bogey on the fourth and fell to 3-over-par through four holes, I knew that I needed to play solid and grind out some pars. The momentum of my round shifted on the eighth hole when I chipped in for par. From that point forward I felt like I had a chance to shoot even or under par. Unfortunately, I couldn't get much going on the back nine and missed some good birdie looks. Overall I am pleased with the progress I made and how I hung in there after the third hole and scraped out a 77.”
Like Ryan, Nunez will also have a busy summer.
“My schedule is pretty filled out for the summer. Today (June 20), I have a local qualifier for the New Jersey State Open and after that I have my first-ever American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) in Killington, Vermont during the Fourth of July weekend,” said Nunez, who had his friend Elijah Glantz, also a SOMA resident, on the bag. “As for USGA events, I will try to qualify for the U.S. Amateur, as well as my first attempt in the U.S. Four-Ball with a good friend of mine from Long Island. I’m also going to be playing in local tournaments throughout the state.”
Nunez added one more thought on the day.
“I’d like to congratulate Pat (Ryan) on qualifying today for the U.S. Junior Amateur and wish him the best of luck as he represents our town in a challenging event.”
Two SOMA residents chasing and continuing the dream.