Locals compete in U.S. Junior Amateur

UPDATE (July 22, 2016, 5:30 p.m.) - John Pak's birdie on the par-3 16th hole ultimately forced extra holes in his semifinal match against Noah Goodwin of Corinth, Texas, but Goodwin's eagle-three on the second hole ended Pak's run in the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship, early Friday evening at The Honors Course in Ooltewah, Tenn.

Related: Scoring | Pak vs. Brent Ito Story

The match went back and forth in the early going, as Goodwin took the first hole with birdie before Pak claimed the next two. A birdie and eagle on Nos. 6-7 sent the lead back in Goodwin's favor, but the pair stood all-square through nine when Pak claimed the front-nine finisher with a par-4. Wins were traded again on Nos. 10 and 12, while Goodwin's birdie on the 15th landed him with his fourth 1-up lead in the match. Pak birdied the ensuing hole though, with a two on the par-3 16th. The final two holes were halved to send the match into extras. After another halve on the par-4 first, Goodwin sealed the match with an eagle-three on the par-5 second.

Pak advanced to the quarterfinals for the second straight year, but can still look forward to competing in the championship in 2017.

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UPDATE (July 22, 2016, 3:00 p.m.) - Facing a one-hole deficit through 15 holes, John Pak of Scotch Plains, N.J., won Nos. 16 and 17 with back-to-back birdies and halved the finishing hole to defeat Won Jun Lee of Korea and advance to the Semifinals of the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship, being played at The Honors Course in Ooltewah, Tenn.

Related: Scoring

Pak snagged an early 3-up lead with wins on Nos. 2-4. His opponent, carrying the No. 4 slot from qualifying, claimed the next two, but Pak added a birdie on the short par-4 seventh to regain a 2-up lead. However, Lee took advantage of three-straight Pak bogies begin the back nine, flipping a two-hole deficit into a one-hole advantage. Pak snapped the bogey streak and evened the match with a birdie-three on No. 13, but Lee's birdie on the par-4 15th once again set Pak one-hole behind. Pak was up to the challenge though, closing his round strongly just as he's done in previous matches, as he recorded birdies on the par-3 16th and par-5 17th to reclaim his lead he had held for much of the match. A par on the finishing hole secured the 1-up victory and his spot in the semifinal match.

Pak's currently taking on Noah Goodwin of Corinth, Texas, with a bid to the finals on the line.

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UPDATE (July 21, 2016, 6:45 p.m.) - John Pak came out on top in the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship match that featured a pair of Met Area contenders, as the Scotch Plains, N.J., native defeated Brent Ito of Ardsley, N.Y., at The Honors Course in Ooltewah, Tenn. Pak advances to the semifinal at the championship for the second straight year.

Related: Scoring

Ito took the early lead thanks to a birdie on the par-5 second hole. After four halves, Pak took his first win of the match with a birdie on the par-4 seventh. Wins on Nos. 9, 10 and 13 for Pak quickly earned him a three-hole advantage. Ito, who was the lowest remaining seed in the Round of 16 at No. 60, cut his deficit to one with a par-four on the 15th, but Pak's three on the par-3 16th earned him the hole and the match by a 3&2 margin.

Pak will next face No. 4 qualifier Won Jun Lee of Korea, with the quarterfinal match teeing off at 7:55 a.m., Friday morning.

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UPDATE (July 21, 2016, 1:00 p.m.) - Brent Ito of Ardsley, N.Y., and John Pak of Scotch Plains, N.J., each secured wins this morning in their respective matches at the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship, sending them to the Round of 16 for a match against one another at 2 p.m. at The Honors Course in Ooltewah, Tenn.

Related: Scoring

Ito won his first two holes to take a quick 2-up advantage over Joe Highsmith of Lakewood, Wash., who defeated the reigning U.S. Junior champion in the Round of 64. Highsmith won the third and sixth holes to even the match, but Ito took a 3-up advantage into the inward nine as pars on Nos. 7-9 were enough to win each hole. Ito's advantage grew to four with a birdie-three on the 13th. Highsmith claimed a pair of holes coming down the stretch, but a par-3 on 16 won Ito the hole and the match, 3&2.

Pak's match with Ryan Grauman of Alamo, Calif., was back and forth through the entire round. Grauman took the early lead with a birdie-three on the first, but Pak squared the match with his own birdie-three on the fourth. From there Pak would take a 1-up advantage on three occasions, only to have Grauman erase the advantage shortly thereafter. Grauman pulled even again by winning the 16th, but Pak put together the strong finish, winning the par-5 17 with a five and then securing the victory with a chip-in birdie-three on the 18th hole for the 2-up margin.

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UPDATE (July 20, 2016, 3:30 p.m.) - Match play victories by Brent Ito of Ardsley, N.Y., and John Pak of Scotch Plains, N.J., will send the pair to the Round of 32 at the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship, being played at The Honors Course in Ooltewah, Tenn.

Related: Scoring

Ito, garnering the No. 60 slot in the match play bracket, defeated the No. 5 qualifier Matthew Sharpstene of Asheville, N.C., by a 3&2 margin. The match was up and down, with Sharpstene taking a 2-up advantage with wins on the third and fourth holes. However, Ito claimed the next four holes (one with birdie and three with par), to take his own 2-up lead through eight holes. Sharpstene responded with two straight wins to square the match through the 10th. Ito birdied the par-4 12th hole to reclaim his advantage. After the pair halved the par-4 13th, Ito birdied the next two holes, going dormie with three holes remaining. A third consecutive birdie from Ito led to a halve on the par-3 16th, earning the Michigan commit a 3&2 victory.

Pak, who took the No. 12 seed into match play, held a 3-up advantage through nine holes, but his opponent, Ben Epperly of West Des Moines, Iowa, took advantage on four of Pak's back-nine bogies to get back into the match. Pak's lead was trimmed to one on through 11, but he responded with a birdie on the par-4 12th. The see-saw continued over the next three holes as the opponents traded wins. However, the pair halved the final three holes, leading to Pak's 1-up victory.

Spring Lake, N.J.'s Brendan Hansen was defeated by the Philippines' Wei Wei Gao, 3&2. Hansen won the par-4 ninth with a birdie to trim his deficit to just two holes at the turn. Gao then used birdies on Nos. 12 and 14 to push his lead back to four. Hansen won the par-4 15th with par, but halves on the par-3 16th left Gao as the 3&2 winner.

Match play is slated to continue on Thursday, with two rounds of play. Ito will take on Joe Highsmith of Lakewood, Wash., at 8:30 a.m., while Pak sqaures off against Ryan Grauman of Alamo, Calif., at 8:40 a.m.

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UPDATE (July 20, 2016, 9:10 a.m.) - Both Brent Ito of Ardsley, N.Y., and Brendan Hansen of Spring Lake, N.J., have advanced to match play in the U.S. Junior Amateur out of a 13-for-7 playoff at The Honors Course in Ooltewah, Tenn.

Related: Scoring

The duo both carded a pair of fours in the playoff, securing a par on the par-4 10th and a birdie on the par-5 11th to continue their run in the championship. They join Scotch Plains, N.J., native John Pak in the match play portion.

Pak took the No. 12 seed and faces off against Ben Epperly of West Des Moines, Iowa at 10:05 a.m., while Ito, garnering the No. 60 seed, takes on Matthew Sharpstene of Asheville, N.C., at 10:25. Hansen is in the No. 58 slot, and will face the Philippines' Wei Wei Gao at 11:35 a.m.

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UPDATE (July 19, 2016) - Brent Ito of Ardsley, N.Y., and Brendan Hansen of Spring Lake, N.J., will compete in a 13-for-7 playoff on Wednesday morning at 7:15 a.m. at the U.S. Junior Amateur in hopes of advancing to the championship's match-play portion at The Honors Course in Ooltewah, Tenn. Meanwhile, Scotch Plains, N.J., native John Pak has secured his position in match play, finishing at 1-under 143 over the two days and 36 holes of stroke play.

Related: Scoring

Ito played a fairly routine opening round, registering one birdie to two bogies for a 1-over 73 on Monday. Tuesday's round was a bit more adventurous, as Ito carded a triple and two birdies on the front nine and had five bogies on the final nine for a 6-over 78, yet Ito still has the opportunity to continue to the championship's next stage.

Hansen, who narrowly missed advancing to the Met Junior's match play portion last week in a 4-for-1 playoff, carded a 4-over 76 on Monday. While Hansen played his final five holes in 5-over on Tuesday, four birdies during a five-hole stretch in the middle of his round helped him secure a spot in the playoff.

Pak, a quarterfinalist in last year's U.S. Junior Amateur, had a pair of birdies and three bogies in Monday's first round. Tuesday's round featured an opening bogey, but a stretch of three consecutive birdies on Nos. 5-7 and pars the rest of the way earned Pak a 2-under 70 and left him tied for 11th in the field which started with 156 players.

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ELMSFORD, N.Y. (July 17, 2016) - Several of the Met Area's best junior golfers are set to compete in the U.S. Junior Amateur this week, which takes place at The Honors Course in Ooltewah, Tenn., July 18-23. The field of 156 juniors will compete in stroke play on Monday, July 18 and Tuesday, July 19, with the top 64 advancing to match play for the remainder of the championship.

Local competitors looking to make a run in the championship include:

Brendan Hansen of Spring Lake, N.J.

Brent Ito of Ardsley, N.Y., winner of the 2014 MGA/MetLife Boys Championship and recent winner of the Metropolitan Junior PGA Championship.

Jack Maguire of Ridgefield, Conn.

Matt Minerva of Elmsford, N.Y.

John Pak of Scotch Plains, N.J., who was exempt after being a quarterfinalist in the championship in 2015.

William Rand of New York City.

Jack Wall of Brielle, N.J.

The U.S. Junior Amateur Championship is open to any male who has not turned 18 as of July 23 and whose Handicap Index does not exceed 6.4.

THe Honors Course is hosting its fourth USGA Championship (1991 U.S. Amateur, 2005 U.S. Mid-Am, 2011 U.S. Senior Women's Amateur).

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