SHOAL CREEK, Ala. – Cameron Peck is trying his best to stay under the radar despite a summer streak that seems unlikely to stop.
“It’s nice when people tell me I’m a good golfer,” Peck said. “But I don’t like to tell people how good of a golfer I am.”
Too late. They already know.
Peck completed a dominating 10-and-8 victory over Evan Beck to win the U.S. Junior Amateur on a soggy Saturday at Shoal Creek. It was the largest margin of victory since the championship match went to 36 holes in 2005.
The 17-year-old birdied three of his first six holes to gain a 5-up lead. His lead grew to 6 up after 18, and Peck closed the door by getting up-and-down for par on No. 10 in the afternoon session.
“I probably hit some of the best shots today that I hit all week,” Peck said. “Yeah, I won. Some people might be cocky or whatever, but I’m just the same Cameron. The same kid. I just played good golf.”
Actually, Peck’s played really good golf lately. Last week he won the AJGA’s HP Boys Invitational at Bay Hill. Three weeks earlier, he won the FootJoy Boys Invitational. Now with a victory at the U.S. Junior, Peck has cemented his place as one of the country’s best junior golfers, not to mention the frontrunner for AJGA Player of the Year.
Those are lofty titles to carry, especially considering the path Peck took.
Unlike many elite juniors, Peck attends a public high school, sees his swing coach once every other month and considers golf one of many interests. Instead of flying south from his Olympia, Wash., home during the winter to hone his game, Peck spends his Saturdays snowboarding. By the end of this year, he’ll test to earn his black belt in karate, a sport he’s trained in since he was 11 years old.
“I don’t want Cameron to focus on golf 24-7,” said his mother Misun. “That’s just not right.”
Those factors have combined to make Peck well-rounded and well-adjusted, and able to handle the pressure of succeeding on the highest level. In April, he won his first AJGA title. Two months later he closed with rounds of 68-66 at FootJoy for his first invitational victory. And earlier this week, he gave Texas A&M coach J.T. Higgins his verbal commitment for 2009.
Not a bad run considering last year Peck did’t advance past the second round of match play at the U.S. Junior and posted just one top-10 finish on the AJGA circuit.
“I know what it’s like to win now,” Peck said. “Other people might feel pressure. I just relax and don’t feel that anymore.”
Even on the biggest stage of his young career, it was hard to imagine Beck was under much pressure either. The 17-year-old from Virginia Beach, Va., wasn’t even supposed to be at the U.S. Junior.
In a qualifier June 30 at Hermitage Country Club in Manakin Sabot, Va., Beck birdied his final two holes to get into a playoff, but was defeated in extra holes by Wilson Day. That left Beck without a spot at Shoal Creek, until a USGA official called almost three weeks later.
“My dad got the phone call last Thursday and I was playing in another tournament,” Beck said. “I was coming down the 18th fairway and he told me I was going to Birmingham. I didn’t believe him. I was so excited.”
Two spots at the U.S. Junior are held in case the finalists at the U.S. Amateur Public Links are 17 or younger. As first alternate, Beck was awarded his place when collegians Jack Newman and John Chin reached the finals at the APL.
“I made it to the finals. That’s pretty big,” Beck said. “It’s a pretty good story.”
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