Birdwell Follows Class AAA Win With Ticket to U.S. Junior; Ramos, Ohe and Ballou Advance
June 15, 2023 | 4 min.
By Nick Hunter
WOODBURY, Minn. – Carrying momentum from his individual win at the Minnesota State High School League Class AAA Championship at Bunker Hills Wednesday, Jake Birdwell fired a 2-under 70 Thursday at Prestwick to earn a share of medalist honors to qualify for the 2023 U.S. Junior.
Birdwell rebounded from an early double-bogey by stringing together three late birdies to qualify for his first USGA championship.
“My putter was really good at state—it hasn’t been great all season, but I think I gained a lot of confidence from state, and it helped me today," Birdwell said Thursday. "I made some really clutch putts coming in today.
“I’m really looking forward to the experience at [U.S. Junior] and the atmosphere. Everyone there is good. I went there to caddie for a friend two years ago and I got to see what it was like. Going into these bigger events, my goal is to keep my composure and play well.”
Joining Birdwell at the championship next month at Daniel Island Club in Charleston, S.C., is Totino-Grace’s Andrew Ramos, Edina's Torger Ohe and Chanhassen's Andrew Ballou.
Playing his first seven holes in 2-over Wednesday, Birdwell closed out his front nine with back-to-back birdies to draw even for the day.
Giving back a stroke with a bogey at the 11th, Birdwell slipped to 1-over for the round, but sank three consecutive birdie opportunities beginning at the par-3 14th to finish in a share of the lead at 2-under 70.
A University of Illinois commit, Birdwell fired a 6-under 66 to begin the Class AAA championship at Bunker Hills Golf Club Tuesday, and followed it with a 2-under 70 during the final round Wednesday to claim individual medalist honors by two strokes.
Ramos, a University of Oklahoma commit who finished tied for fifth Wednesday at the Class AA championship at Ridges at Sand Creek, began his round on the 10th hole Thursday and posted a flawless 4-under 32 to quickly climb the leaderboard.
He moved to 5-under for the tournament with a birdie at the par-5 fourth, but a wayward tee shot at the par-4 seventh led to triple-bogey and he finished the day at 2-under 70 to qualify for his first U.S. Junior.
“It was a good round—hit some good shots and hit some bad shots, but kept it together,” Ramos said Thursday. “I got up-and-down and made some putts. An unfortunate triple on one hole.
“On the front today, I was hitting good tee shots, good approach shots and I was able to make some putts.”
Ramos, currently ranked No. 127 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings, is no stranger to national events, claiming three top-20 finishes across the country over the past year.
“It’s special to be able to qualify,” Ramos said of his first invitation to a USGA championship. “My game feels good, so I’m looking forward to going out there, play my game and see how it goes.”
Ohe, who qualified for last year’s championship at Bandon Dunes in Bandon, Ore., missing the cut for match play, played his opening nine Thursday at even par before sinking four birdie chances during his final nine holes against a pair of bogeys to qualify for the second consecutive season.
“Played pretty well during the middle stretch today and had a couple of decisions early that weren’t very good, but able to save a couple shots with wedges,” Ohe said following his Thursday. “Down the stretch really did a nice job of thinking through every shot and not rushing.
“I’ve had the confidence to know I have the ability to go low and shouldn’t be afraid to have a bad round. Qualifying last year was a really big deal for me as a freshman and a good experience—it was probably a little too big. This year I’ll have my brother caddie for me to tone it down a little and treat it like every other tournament.”
Ohe capped off his sophomore season at Edina Wednesday by posting a final-round 68 to finish third at the Class AAA championship.
Ballou began his round Thursday on the tenth tee, playing his opening nine at 1-under before converting his birdie chance at the par-4 first to reach 2-under.
But he’d take bogeys at the second and fourth holes to drop to even par before finishing on a high note with a birdie at his 17th hole, sinking a 3-footer to finish in a three-way tie with Chanhassen teammate Lucas Arntsen and Zachary Beddor.
It took four playoff holes before Ballou claimed the final qualifying spot over Arntsen.
Ballou got off to a disappointing start to the Class AAA championship Tuesday at Bunker Hills, but battled back on the final day by posting a 1-over 73 to finish tied for 50th.
Arntsen finished as first alternate, while Beddor finished as second alternate.
Last season, 17-year-old Wenyi Ding became the first male golfer to hail from the People’s Republic of China to earn a victory at a USGA championship, winning the U.S. Junior at Bandon Dunes.
The list of notable winners of the U.S. Junior includes Tiger Woods (1991-93), Jordan Spieth (2009, 2011), Scottie Scheffler (2013) and Will Zalatoris (2014).
A Rees Jones design, the 7,300-yard Ralston Creek at Daniel Island Club previously played host to the Korn Ferry Tour Championship from 2009-2011.
Qualifying Spots: 4 Alternates: 2