Fresh off a win at last month’s California Amateur Championship, rising senior Shotaro Ban added another accomplishment to the successful summer he’s experienced in individual competition, as he earned a berth Monday to compete in his first U.S. Amateur.
The stakes were high but certainly rewarding and worth the struggle. Ban was one of three skilled golfers whose scores earned them the opportunity to compete at next month’s tournament by shooting one of the top scores at the 36-hole sectional qualifier, held at the Turlock Golf & Country Club in Turlock, California.
The rising senior started off his first 18 holes of stroke play by shooting 13 pars, four birdies and only one bogey. Ban’s bogey at the the 17th hole didn’t tarnish what was still a solid performance, because he managed to card a 69 (-3) in spite of the minor blemish.
Seemingly inspired by his strong form in the opening round, Ban followed up in the second and final round with an even better display of golf. He went four under for the tournament by the end of the round’s first nine holes, shooting six pars, two birdies and a bogey along the way. He was again able to overcome his second bogey of the event, which didn’t derail him from the fine form he was displaying. Just when it seemed that Ban’s shooting couldn’t possibly get any better, he finished the second half of the round with three pars, four birdies and an eagle, which overshadowed the double bogey he shot in the final hole. Ban’s impressive play in the second round led him to a 69-67=136 (-8) finish and a three-way tie for first. The rising senior drew with Japan’s Kenta Konishi, who won the 2010 Junior Open, and Fresno’s Michael Tolladay.
“I’ve tried so many times to qualify for a USGA event and have fallen up short every time, so clutching up on the last nine holes — minus the final hole — it just makes this one that more special,” Ban said to Cal Athletics after his victory Monday.
With another tournament win added to his resume, Ban will prepare to face some top-notch competition at the U.S. Amateur, including incoming Cal recruit Collin Morikawa. The freshman qualified for next month’s event by placing second at last week’s sectional-qualifier event at the Crystalaire Country Club in Llano, California.
Much like his future Cal teammate, Morikawa will head into the U.S. Amateur with quite a bit of momentum and confidence. The incoming recruit emerged victorious at the 112th Trans-Mississippi Championship two weeks ago at Flint Hills National Golf Club in Andover, Kansas. Morikawa put on a clinic at the event with 26 total birdies en route to carding, 70-64-64-64=262(-8), a seven-stroke victory.
“Flint Hills is a traditional, challenging test of golf, and Collin’s (Morikawa) score was unreal,” said Cal men’s golf head coach Steve Desimone to Cal Athletics about the incoming recruit’s win.
In the 2015-16 season, Ban and Morikawa will be teammates and will hope to help lead the Bears back to the NCAA Championships. But for now, they’ll be focused on competing against each other at next month’s U.S. Amateur, where they will hope to outdo each other and walk away with a bigger claim to inclusion in Cal’s tournament lineup next season.