William Zalatoris won the U.S. Junior Amateur on Saturday, beating Davis Riley 5 and 3 in the 36-hole final at The Club at Carlton Woods.
The 17-year-old Zalatoris, from Plano, holed out from 119 yards for eagle on the 32nd hole – the par-4 14th on the Nicklaus Course – to take a 4-up lead and ended the match with a par win on the 33rd hole.
”This is the one I’ve always wanted to win,” Zalatoris said. ”This is the tournament that really pushed me to play golf. And I really, really wanted to win this, and this is the first week that I really felt like I could do it. My emotions are running like crazy.”
Zalatoris’ 56-degree wedge shot on the 32nd landed just short of the hole and bounced in.
”That’s the shot I’ll never forget,” Zalatoris said. ”That hole has been giving me fits all week. To see that go in and not have to deal with putting on that green was great satisfaction. I really had to slow myself down after that.”
The 17-year-old Riley, from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, finished second for the second straight year. Last year, he fell 3 and 2 to Scottie Scheffler at Martis Camp in Truckee, California.
”He played well, and congrats to him,” said Riley, the first player in tournament history to lose in two finals. ”I’m really proud of how I played. I didn’t beat myself. He just deserved it.”
Zalatoris, the rising Wake Forest freshman making his record-tying fifth appearance in the event, tied it with a 5-foot birdie putt on the par-4 18th and took a 2-up lead with birdie wins on the par-4 19th and 20th holes.
”It did mean a lot, having a little bit of momentum,” Zalatoris said about the birdie on 18. ”The morning was awesome, just back and forth. And this afternoon I really played the round of my life.”
Riley, set to play at Alabama, won the par-3 21st with a birdie to cut his deficit to a hole, but Zalatoris won the par-4 23rd with a par and the par-5 26th with a birdie to take a 3-up lead. Riley cut it to two holes with a birdie on the par-4 29th, and Zalatoris pushed the margin back to three with a par win on the par-3 30th.
Both players earned spots in the U.S. Amateur next month at Atlanta Athletic Club.
Zalatoris also won the Texas State Amateur last month and the Trans-Miss Championship two weeks ago at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
”You know, this one, it touches my heart, to be honest with you,” Zalatoris said. ”Just spin this trophy around and look at the names. It’s amazing.”