Coming into the U.S. Junior Amateur at Bandon Dunes resort in Oregon, Central Catholic High School product Rocco Salvitti had the goal of advancing to the match-play portion of the event.
Despite a lengthy fog delay before his second round and a couple of miscues, he was able to accomplish just that as his stay in his first USGA appearance was extended by at least one day.
Salvitti’s two-over 73 on Tuesday at the Bandon Trails course was enough to get him safely into the top 64 competitors, as he finished 36 holes at level par. He was one stroke clear of an 11-player playoff for the final spots.
“Making the match play was my main goal coming in,” Salvitti told PGN late Tuesday. “Knowing I am one of the top 64 of the 264 that were in the event is awesome. Now, it’s just me versus another guy, and the cut line is out of the equation. It’s an experience not many tournaments give you. I’m excited for the rest of the week.”
Salvitti first played 18 at Bandon Dunes on Monday afternoon where he recorded birdie on two of his first three holes and on the back nine recorded his lone blemish, a bogey on the par-3 12th hole. This miscue was undone by a birdie on the par-5 18th hole and he finished the day at 2 under.
Salvitti expressed pleasure with how he was hitting the ball and that the lower shot shape he had been working on was paying off.
“Starting off strong with two birdies in first three holes was great,” said Salvitti. “Staying confident and to keep going was the highlight of the week. Shooting 2 under in 30 mile-per hour winds on the harder course was the highlight. It was one of my most complete rounds I’ve had in tournament play.”
On Tuesday all rounds were delayed 2 1/2 hours due to fog and as he attempted to advance to match play at Bandon Trails, he woke up a 5 a.m. local time, but would not take to the 10th tee until 10:30.
Salvitti arrived at the course was almost done warming up when he received news that fog would delay the start of the round. Upon speaking to a member of the USGA, there was potential for a delay exceeding an hour or two, which is exactly what happened.
Salvitti elected to complete his original warmup and return to the lodge, where he hit some putts. When he was given a start time, Salvitti returned to the facility to warmup once more, before taking a shuttle to 10.
“Knowing we could tee off was a reliever, knowing we could play some golf,” he said.
Salvitti admitted he was spraying the ball throughout the first nine holes, but got off to a clean start on his scorecard, which included a birdie on the par-5 16th hole.
At 3 under par, Salvitti was well on his way to advancing but recorded double bogey on the par-5 third hole after his drive found the fairway.
Salvitti found himself between clubs and stood over his second, not fully committed to his shot. His third shot hit a false front and rolled back to his feet. After reaching the green, it took three putts to find the hole, including a short miss which was uncharacteristic.
“I told myself, ‘It’s time to reset, mistakes happen,'” Salvitti said.
The fourth hole resulted in a par, but Salvitti gave one more short back on the fifth as his tee shot found a fairway bunker.
Salvitti’s biggest test came on the seventh hole when he caught a flyer lie in the round and his approach was a hair short. His two-putt par included an eight-foot make to avoid giving a stroke.
The final two holes were routine pars, though Salvitti still had to wait a few hours, figuring his even-par score was enough to secure a potential playoff at worst case.
Salvitti’s score was indeed one clear of a playoff, securing at least one round of match play which will be the second match out Wednesday against China’s Wenyi Ding.
All match play contests will be held at Bandon Dunes and the pair will tee off at 9:41 a.m. local time.
“I know if I keep hitting fairways and greens it will put a lot of pressure on my opponent regardless of how good they are,” said Salvitti. “They’ll have to chase pins and birdies. My ball-striking ability gives me a lot of momentum and confidence going into match play.
“In my first US Junior championship, I’m very excited and honored to make it to the match play portion and show what I have on the national level. I will stick to my game plan and keep going for the next however many rounds. I have a lot of confidence and excitement heading into the round of 64.”