Chandler McDowell can still barely believe he made it.
The 18-year-old golfer from Red Deer County snagged a spot at one of the biggest junior golf tournaments in the world last week.
McDowell shot a 71 at The Club at Rock Creek in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho on June 19 in a U.S. Junior Amateur Sectional Qualifier to earn a spot at the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship.
His one-under-par score was two strokes better than the nearest competitor in the 40 golfer field. It earned him a chance to play at the tournament where PGA stars like Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth have cut their teeth.
“Probably the biggest junior tournament you can play in. It’s going to be awesome, really excited to play and represent Canada,” he said.
His round at Rock Creek in the qualifier didn’t exactly get off to the best start. He four-putted his way to a double bogey on the first hole but still carried confidence throughout the day from there.
“I knew I still had 17 holes,” he said.
“The course was tricky but I knew I could make some birdies. Played well, hit 16 of 18 greens. Striking it really well and made a lot of really good putts.”
It was the third attempt for McDowell to qualify for the U.S. Amateur, but when he finished his round last Tuesday, he wasn’t sure if he went low enough to win.
“I played the same course the year before and it was windy and firm. A little tougher and 73 got in,” he added.
“This year it felt a lot easier. When I shot 71, I knew it might be close, but I honestly thought someone shot three or four under.”
McDowell will compete in the event at Baltusrol Golf Club from July 16-21 in Springfield, N.J. The tournament starts with two days of stroke play on July 16 and 17, before match play with a field of 64 starts on July 18.
“Short game is going to be key out there. It’s going to be a bit different golf course than I’m used to. Really have to dial into the chipping and putting. Right now, I feel like I’m hitting it just as good as the best. Just comes down to the little things,” he said.
“Take it one step at a time. (Making it to) match play would be nice to make. It’s not out of the realm of possibility. Just play some solid golf for two days and I’m in. Get into match play and anything can happen.”