The weather malaise has finally subsided – at least for this first week in June. Golf was certainly in the air – and a big discussion point – Monday at Gold Mountain Golf Complex.
Another showcase event for this gem-of-a-site Olympic Course is coming – the 64th U.S. Junior Amateur (July 18-23).
Monday was the media day, set right on the outskirts of the 18th green. Longtime Northwest legendary professional Bill Tindall, who won the 1960 U.S. Junior Am title, was a guest speaker. So, too, was Tacoma’s John Harbottle III – the architect of one of America’s top municipal courses.
Here are some primer tibidts about the upcoming championship, which is two days of stroke play and four days of subsequent match play:
* The reigning champion is Jim Liu, who won the championship last year as a 14-year-old. He will defend. Also fully exempt is Jordan Spieth (2009 U.S. Junior Am winner), the headliner and Texas signee; Robby Shelton (2010 U.S. Junior Am quarterfinalist); Gavin Hall (2010 U.S. Junior Am quarterfinalist); and Beau Hossler (to-be 2011 U.S. Open participant).
* The rest of the 151-player field will come from 62 sites of 36-hole sectional qualifying all over the country – June 13-29. One of those hosts is Gold Mountain’s Olympic Course on June 21.
* Liu, of Smithtown, N.Y., is linked to USGA championship king Tiger Woods in a few ways. When Liu won last year at Egypt Valley CC in Ada, Mich., he became the youngest winner – seventh months younger than when Woods captured his first title in 1991.
Also, if Liu successfully defends, he would become only the second back-to-back winner since Woods (1991-93).
* Gold Mountain’s Olympic Course, which opened in 1996 as Harbottle’s third solo golf architectual property, continues to rack up honors.
It hosted the 2006 U.S. Amateur Public Links championship, won by Hawaii’s Casey Watabu. A pair of NCAA West Men’s Regionals have been played on this layout. Numerous USGA qualifiers (including U.S. Open sectionals on Monday, and U.S. Amateur Public Links qualifying the day after) have come to the Gorst jewel.
For the U.S. Junior Amateur, the Olympic Course will be set up at 7,133 yards and at par 72. Conditions from now until the week-long event will be in championship form – the greens are running close to 111/2 feet on the stimpmeter, and the rough is up and will grow a bit higher.
Gold Mountain will become the first municipal course to host a U.S. Junior Amateur – and second public venue.
* Tindall will be the honorary host of the event that week, and Johnny Miller, a former U.S. Junior Am winner and now NBC Sports broadcaster, will be the guest speaker at the players’ dinner, which will be held on the John C. Stennis aircraft carrier in Bremerton.
* Volunteer spots are still open. For the championship weeks, an estimated 1,400 work shifts needed to be filled; 950 (among 300 volunteers) have been scheduled.
For galleries, a $100 donation to the U.S. Junior Amateur will guarantee the opportunity to purchase a week-long ticket to the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay Golf Course in University Place rather than go into a lottery selection.