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Michael Thorbjornsen rallies to win US Junior Amateur

July 22, 2018

SPRINGFIELD, N.J. (AP) — Michael Thorbjornsen rallied to win the U.S. Junior Amateur on Saturday, beating fellow 16-year-old Akshay Bhatia 1 up in the 36-hole on Baltusrol Golf Club’s Upper Course.

“I feel like this is probably the biggest junior event you can win and I somehow managed to win it,” Thorbjornsen said. “It just feels amazing because I haven’t won a tournament in around just over a year now, so this is the perfect tournament for me to win.”

Thorbjornsen, from Wellesley, Massachusetts, birdied the par-4 30th hole — after his drive hit a tree and landed in the fairway — to square the match. He took the lead for the first time on the par-4 32nd, driving the 302-yard hole and two-putting for birdie.

“I was really feeling confident at that time with a nice little fade,” Thorbjornsen said. “Just because if I hit a regular drive up 14, I’m pretty sure would’ve gone long — and long on that hole is absolutely dead.”

On the par-4 closing hole, he hit a 42-foot birdie putt to 2 feet to set up the winning par.

Bhatia, from Wake Forest, North Carolina, missed a tying 4-foot birdie putt on the par-5 35th hole. On the 36th, he missed a 45-foot birdie try from the front fringe, giving Thorbjornsen the chance to end it with a par.

Thorbjornsen earned a spot in the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and 2019 U.S. Amateur. With their semifinal victories, Bhatia and Thorbjornsen got spots in the U.S. Amateur next month at Pebble Beach.

“I’m pretty sure a lot of stuff hasn’t really sunk in yet, like the U.S. Am definitely, as well as the U.S. Open,” Thorbjornsen said. “But right when Akshay took off his hat and I realized it was over and I actually had won, I didn’t know like what to do with my hands, with my hat. I didn’t know where to go. I was just smiling from ear to ear, so I was just really happy.”

Bhatia had a 3-up lead after six holes and was 2-up after 20. With the usual match-play concessions, Bhatia and Thorbjornsen each shot 2-over 144. Thorbjornsen had rounds of 75 and 69, and Bhatia shot 72-72.

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