U.S. Amateur run has Franklin Regional grad Palmer Jackson eager for more | TribLIVE.com
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U.S. Amateur run has Franklin Regional grad Palmer Jackson eager for more

Bill Beckner
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Franklin Regional’s Palmer Jackson reacts after an errant drive on Hole 10 during the WPIAL Class AAA boys golf championship Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018, at Oakmont Country Club.

Palmer Jackson graduated from high school two months ago. He is moving into a dorm at Notre Dame this week to begin his freshman year of college.

At just 18 years old, Jackson is a teenager about to embark on the next chapter of his life. On the golf course, however, the gifted kid from Franklin Regional is ahead of his years.

Already, Jackson has played in four USGA championships. His latest appearance on a national stage was perhaps his most impressive — and the best on-course experience of his short lifetime.

“Definitely,” he said.

Jackson left a trail of victories against older, more experienced players last week at Pinehurst (N.C.) Resort & Country Club as he reached the quarterfinals of his second U.S. Amateur.

Jackson, seated at No. 555 in the amateur world rankings, opened with a bang: a 4-under-par 66 in the first round of stroke play, a shot off the opening-day lead. While he followed with a 76 on Pinehurst’s U.S. Open-famous No. 2 course, he took an inconspicuous No. 26 seeding into match play.

What followed opened eyes and turned heads in golf circles. After a 60-foot, match-clinching putt from the fringe dispatched Hayden Springer from Trophy Club, Texas, for a 3 & 2 win, Jackson clinched his fists for the bedlam that was about to come.

He turned back a pair of college graduates — two players who are planning to turn professional — in Jacob Solomon of Auburn, Ala. (1-up in the Round of 32), and Isaiah Salinda of South San Francisco (2-up in the Round of 16) to reach the final eight.

Solomon was No. 216 and Salinda No. 20 in the world ranks. Only two holes were halved in the match against Salinda. Jackson, who won the PIAA Class AAA title as a senior, used a deft, greenside flop shot on No. 12 to go 2-up.

A standout pitcher on the Franklin Regional baseball team — the Panthers reached the PIAA Class 5A quarterfinals last season behind his arm (and that pesky knuckle ball) — Jackson ran into a heavy hitter in the quarters.

Vanderbilt senior John Augenstein, the No. 38-ranked amateur, took early control in the match before holding off Jackson, 3 & 2.

Augenstein was 3-up through five holes before an hourlong weather delay halted play. Jackson seized the stop in momentum for his opponent and won two holes to close the gap to 1-down. Augenstein won Nos. 15 and 16 to seal it.

Augenstein reached the final but lost to Andy Ogletree of Little Rock, Miss., 2 & 1.

Jackson, who won the Memorial Junior earlier in the summer, had all of Hannastown Golf Club rooting for him as members gathered to watch his matches in the clubhouse.

“The experience is unlike any I’ve had,” Jackson said. “You can’t replicate the atmosphere of an event no matter how hard you try. I had to stick with my routine and focus on the task at hand to eliminate the distractions.”

Jackson’s hot takes from a whirlwind week:

• He still loves match play — maybe more so.

• Pinehurst No. 2 is the hardest course he’s played.

• He will be back.

His quarterfinal finish earned him an exemption into next year’s U.S. Amateur at Bandon Dunes in Oregon.

And then there’s 2022. Imagine the run Jackson made. Now imagine it a few Dustin Johnson drives down the road at Oakmont Country Club.

The storied layout will host the 2022 Amateur. Jackson is named after the late, great Arnold Palmer.

“Very excited for that,” Jackson said.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bill by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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