Kamiak golfer qualifies for national jr. championship
Making par has never felt so good: golfer Chris Hatch has qualified to compete in the largest junior golf tournament in the United States.
Hatch, a senior at Kamiak High School, recently won first place in the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship Qualifier. He shot 73-71 on a 36-hole stroke play tournament for an even par score of 144. He led by five strokes.
He will now play in the 65th U.S. Junior Amateur Championship to be held at The Golf Club of New England in Stratham, N.H., July 16-21. He was an alternate last year with a score of 148.
“This is probably the biggest win I’ve had,” Hatch said. “I‘ve had a few other wins, but this definitely goes to the top.
“It’s really exciting. I feel like all my hard work has paid off.”
Only the top three golfers qualified for the championship. Jooho Lee from Canada was second with a score of 153.
Hatch also earned a spot in the Junior America’s Cup to represent Team Washington at the BanBury Golf Club in Eagle, Idaho, July 24-26.
A total of 56 golfers ages 17 and under played two rounds of 18 holes at the Gold Mountain Golf Course in Bremerton on June 26.
“I got a lot of good breaks,” Hatch said. “And when I did get a good break, I took advantage of it. I also putted really well. I only had one 3 put, which came on my 30th hole.”
Hatch credits a strong mental game to his win. He said he went into the tournament believing he would win it – and then he did.
“I’m thinking, ‘I can win this, if I play really good,’” he said. “Not in a cocky way, but in a confident way.”
The course played long at 7,150 yards. Hatch struggled with his tee game all day, but he hit well with his iron and got onto the green to make lots of birdies, or one stroke under par on a hole.
With a score of 73 in the first half, Hatch was tied for third place. He finished strong in the second half with 71 strokes, making pars and birdies on holes and only seven bogies, or one stroke over par on a hole. He ended the day with an even par 144.
The win couldn’t have come at a better time. He had been struggling for the last two months, shooting around 76 when what he wanted was to make the top 10.
“I just wasn’t playing too good,” he said. “I was kind of in a slump, but now I’m shooting around even, and I’m starting to get under par a little more consistently.”
Hatch, of Mukilteo, practices almost daily at the Everett Golf and Country Club and Harbour Pointe Golf Course.
It was at the Harbour Pointe course that Hatch worked on his mental game with golf instructor Joe Puetz. Because of it, Hatch said he felt more relaxed at the tournament.
“It’s huge,” Puetz said of Hatch’s win. “It’s a lot to win by five in a 36-hole tournament in one day. It just shows that his mental game is improving immensely.
“He tends to really play better when there’s more on the line, so his ability to concentrate and focus was better because it was a bigger tournament. He definitely wanted it.”
In the championship, Hatch will be competing against 155 junior golfers from across the nation. Only 64 players will make the cut after the first two days of stroke play. On the last day, the top golfers then compete in match play, where they play against a partner to win holes.
Hatch said his goal is to make the top 30 so that he can set up for a good match on the third day. He is confident he’ll make the cut.
When he gets back from the championship tournament, he’ll fly out again with Team Washington to play the Junior America’s Cup. He’s representing Washington with three other junior golfers.
“I’m excited to see how he does,” Puetz said. “If he has the inward belief like he had going into this previous tournament, he can definitely win at the national stage.”
After five years, this is Hatch’s last year competing at the junior level. He’ll be 18, and too old to play in the tournaments next year.
Hatch has been playing golf since he was 11 years old. He lived on a golf course when he was younger, and both his cousin and his dad got him into the sport. Within a year, he was playing the game competitively.
He also won the local junior golf tournament this year and the Future Collegiate World Tour in California last year.