US-BASED Zimbabwean young golfer Sean Crocker continued with his fine run at the 66th US Junior Amateur Championships underway at Martis Cap Golf Club in Truckee, California, after defeating Austin Connelly on Wednesday to advance to the round of 32 of the prestigious competition.
REPORT BY HENRY MHARA
After a rather disappointing start to the tournament when the teenage sensation posted a five-over par 77 in the opening round, he bounced back to easily qualify for match play at 2-over 146 to book a birth against Connelly.
The 16-year old Crocker then went all out to beat his Texas based opponent 7 and 5, making five birdies in shooting the equivalent of four under par – with the usual match-play concessions – over 13 holes.
“I found a game coming into this tournament,” said Crocker, who was born in Zimbabwe and moved to the U.S 10 years ago. “The first day was a continuation of my slump and the second day was better ball-striking and I started making some putts.”
Crocker, who resides in the leafy Los Angeles suburb of Westlake Village with his family, was set to face ninth-seeded Aaron Terrazas in the second round yesterday evening.
Reports from the US shows that the 1,8 metres tall Crocker dominated Connelly with a powerful swing and outdriving him by 45 metres as he also used his length to gain advantages on par 5s.
Two up at the par-5 seventh hole, Crocker knocked a 260-yard 3-wood approach from the left rough to 10 feet to set up a two-putt birdie, which won the hole.
One hole later, he “chunked” a 7-iron tee shot on the 234-yard eighth to 5 feet for another birdie. And on the 642-yard 10th hole, Crocker hit 3-wood, 3-wood to reach the green in two. He closed out the match with a birdie putt on the 13th hole.
“I can overpower this course,” said Crocker. “On a lot of the par 5s, I can go driver-iron (into the green).”
He wants to win this tournament to make amends for a disappointing summer season when he missed the cut at the recent Rolex Tournament of Champions.
Crocker was invited to play in this year’s Zimbabwe Open in April. It was a chance to see family and friends and also compete against some of the top pros on the Sunshine Tour, a pro circuit primarily based in South Africa.
In his first event with pros, Crocker shot even par and tied for 37th to learn low-amateur honours over another rising Zimbabwe player, Ben Follett-Smith, who plays for Virginia Tech.
“I missed two weeks of school, but it was worth it for the experience,” said Crocker. It also might have been worth it for the chance to impress officials within Zimbabwe golf, especially with golf returning to the Olympics in 2016.”
Crocker revealed that he regularly communicates with Price who he said is his idol.
“Any word from a guy who was No. 1 is something special,” said Crocker.