SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ — Playing in his first-ever USGA Junior Amateur Sectional Qualifier, Westfield High School senior and Rhode Island-bound Sean Taylor made the most of his stay on Wednesday.
Taylor was the only player to shoot under-par with a 1-under 69 (35-34), to take home individual medalist honors at the U.S. Junior Amateur Sectional Qualifier at the par 70, 6,558-yard Shackamaxon Country Club in nearby Scotch Plains.
Sixty-five golfers, including 54 from the Garden State, took a chance at a mere two qualifying spots (plus two alternates) for entry into next month’s U.S. Junior Amateur Championship on the Lower and Upper Courses at historic Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, NJ, July 16-21.
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Sectional qualifying for the tournament is currently being conducted from June 11-29 at 58 sites across the country.
Taylor, who was named to NJ.com’s 1st Team All-State team, got off to a hot start with three birdies in his first five holes, but bogeyed three of the next four to finish with a 35 on the front nine. Taylor regained his composure with a birdie on the par 4, 437-yard 10th hole to start his back nine, followed by six straight pars.
“I got off to a pretty hot start as the putter was working for me, but I struggled to end the front nine with those bogeys,” said Taylor. “I regrouped to start the back and the birdie on 10 was huge and then played pretty conservative with a bunch of pars.”
Taylor added a birdie on the par 3, 205-yard 17th hole and completed his round with a bogey on the par 4, 393-yard 18th hole for a back-nine 34.
“I went into the 18th at 2-under and got an unlucky bogey to finish it out, but all-in-all a pretty good day,” said a smiling Taylor. “I’m like 10 minutes from Baltusrol so for the past five years when this was announced, I’ve been waiting for this day to give it a shot. I’ve played at Shack a bunch of times and it was almost meant to be. It was a great experience and an awesome day.”
Next week, Taylor will play in the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) Polo Golf Junior Classic at Westfield’s Echo Lake Country Club on June 25-29.
“After that, I have to check to see what I will be playing in,” a beaming Taylor said. “I wasn’t exactly expecting to make it. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s awesome.”
Morristown senior and Georgetown-bound William O’Neill, who took a second alternate spot in last year’s sectional qualifier at Peddie School Golf Club in Hightstown, grabbed the second spot on the first playoff hole over Peddie senior Armaandeep Singh, who took first alternate honors.
Both golfers shot a 1-over 71 to enter the playoff.
Newton senior Tyler Wilson took the second alternate spot with a 2-over 72.
Follow Lou Monaco on Twitter: @loumonaco.