In his life in spikes, Erik Flores has had his name penciled onto the scorecards of one high-profile junior golf tournament after another.
Yet, there was one event which had eluded him:
The U.S. Junior Amateur Championships.
The 2003 Sprint Junior Championships medalist rectified that situation this year.
Flores – who took first at a sectional tourney in Carson City, Nev. to earn a ticket to the 57th edition of the annual event – made the cut after two days of preliminary stroke play and won his first two match-play rounds to finish in the top-16 at The Olympic Club in San Francisco July 22.
“It was one of those things where you’d think I’d have been able to make it … I should have made it. But it’s a matter of doing it,” said Flores, who failed to qualify for the event in his first five tries.
The tourney format tested competitors with two rounds of stroke play. The top 64 then earned a berth into the match-play portion.
” It was a great experience. It was everything I expected,” he said. “It was my last chance (to make it) because of my age. Now it’s time to move on to bigger and better things.”
After a rocky stroke-play round in which Flores had to survive a playoff to move on, the Nevada Union senior-to-be came out with clubs blazing in the first round of match play.
Flores had his hands full as he drew the 2002 United States Amateur Golf Association’s Player of the Year, Korea’s Seung-Su Han.
“I knew him. He hits the ball really straight, which is really important at that course, and he is a very good putter,” Flores said. “I was confident because I knew if I played well, I could beat him.”
He did just that.
Flores was down two holes after six, but won seven of the next nine – including five straight – to advance, 4 and 3.
“Match play is a head game, so I think that was a real momentum-builder for me because other people knew who (I beat) and how good he is,” Flores said. “I think that maybe put some fear in the heart of the next competitor.”
Flores started slowly in his second-round showdown with Ji Moon (Ellicot City, Md.), but moved to five holes up after 10 holes.
Moon took hole 11 and 13 and tied 12 to chop the lead to three with five holes to play.
“I really thought I should have put him away earlier. You’ve got to have that killer instinct, and I had trouble doing that,” Flores said.
Moon played Flores even over the next three holes, but lost 3 and 2.
“There was definitely some pressure,” Flores said. “You work your way to 5 up, but the thoughts in your head (creep up) like what if you lose this. What will people think?”
Flores’ run came to an end later in the day when he ran across Timothy McKenney of Scottsdale, Ariz.
McKenney took a 1-0 lead when he birdied the opening hole, and never let go.
He won 3 and 2 to advance to the quarterfinals.
“He just played a really solid game. He hit almost every fairway and almost every green,” Flores said. “It seemed like to me he was making everything.”
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