Qualifying for the oldest major golf championship in the nation didn’t really alter Johnston County golfer Patrick Stephenson’s summer plans, other than this week when he’ll compete in the 114 U.S. Amateur Championship in Atlanta.
A win in the event, however, would change the rest of the South Johnston High School rising junior’s golfing career. He’d join the likes of Nicklaus, Palmer, Woods and Mickelson among others and become eligible for as many as three of professional golf’s major championship events in 2015.
After surviving the qualifying stage where the field of 6,803 entries was whittled down to 312 golfers, Stephenson will play two stroke play qualifying rounds this week (Aug. 11-12) to determine the 64 golfers who will take part in the match play portion of the tournament, which wraps up on Sunday.
It will be a big finish for what has been a very productive summer for Stephenson, whose consistent play has helped him nab top finishes in several tournaments. Most recently, one of those finishes came at the the Optimist International Junior Golf Championships in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Stephenson tied for fourth in the 470-golfer event with an even par score over four rounds.
“I’ve been under par in at least one round of the last 10 or so tournaments, so my scoring has been more consistent,” Stephenson said recently. “I’ve noticed a big difference in my game overall in the last month or so.”
Stephenson is quick to credit the work of his swing coach, Ryan Daley of Keith Hills Country Club, for all of his help and work over the past few years.
Locally, Stephenson topped the field in a Tarheel Youth Golf Association tournament at the Country Club of Johnston County last month.
Stephenson finished tied for fourth at the 10th Dogwood State Junior Championship, which concluded Thursday in Lexington. He compiled a 54-hole score of 1-under par.
Ideally, Stephenson would like to see his work off of the tee improve this week as the Amateur begins, noting that he hasn’t been as consistent off of the tee as he would like to be.
“I know if I play well, I can have a chance,” Stephenson said. “It’s a great opportunity and going to be a great experience.”