There is a lot on the line at this week’s U.S. Junior, but the awards aren’t ones you can buy

Blades Brown toured the fairways of Bandon Dunes on Friday morning, 3,000 miles west of Trump Bedminster and a world apart from the commotion of this week’s LIV Golf.

Blades is 15.

He dreams of earning a livelihood playing golf one day. But for the time being, he is content to play for fun.

“It’s by far my favorite thing to do,” Blades said.

He had his fill during the previous several days. Blades, a native of Nashville, had traveled to Bandon for the U.S. Junior Amateur, an opportunity he had won by persevering through a three-man playoff to win the last slot in a regional qualifying in his home state.

Blades has played in a few games, like many other talented young players. He had never visited Bandon, however. Last weekend, when he arrived for a sneak look, the wind was howling and mist was billowing off the water, adding to the place’s unsettling wildness.

“It’s amazing,” Blades remarked. “There’s nothing like this in Tennessee.”

He swiftly adjusted, shooting two 71s to qualify for the match-play round of 64 before losing in the stroke-play round.

This occurred on Wednesday. Blades, though, had persisted.

Two days later, he was back on the course, watching from the sidelines as his friend Caleb Surratt competed in the quarterfinals. The sun was out, and the air was blowing. Parke, Blades’ father, walked beside him.

This event is so genuine, remarked Parke. We’re only attempting to absorb as much of it as we can.

You could comprehend the desire. With a conflict between competing tours brewing and the impression that everyone and everything is up for sale, these are peculiar times in the game.

It’s not true that junior golf is all sweetness and light. It’s more professionalized than ever at its highest levels. The fields and swing speeds are growing stronger in the U.S. Junior. The children hit balls on the range using portable launch monitors to keep track of their stats while sporting corporate logos.

However, they are not playing for cash. And it must be overlooked that they are still young.

The USGA had built up a large welcome tent as part of its tournament preparations. This “player experience” center was complete with a variety of age-appropriate amenities, including ping-pong, putting mats, VR headsets, and an abundance of refreshments.

Blades remarked, “They treated us like kings.

With a name like Blades, one could assume that his parents were actively seeking to produce a golfer. In actuality, his mother’s maiden name was Blades. like the former WNBA point guard Rhonda Blades In basketball, Blades is quite good. However, the golf bug struck him when he was 10 and he hasn’t looked back since.

Despite his experience on the junior tour, Blades had never competed in a USGA event before the US Junior, and he had fallen in love with all the little features, like the roped-off practice putting greens and the ping-pong and VR stations.

Blades said, “Almost like a Tour event.”

However, not. This week’s Rocket Mortgage Classic, a legitimate Tour stop where the victor will get $1.15 million, will take place in Detroit. If you can get it, it’s nice job, but it’s still not as lucrative as the $4 million LIV is offering for winning this week.

There is a lot on the line in the U.S. Junior as well, including exemptions into the U.S. Amateur and the U.S. Open, but the awards are not ones that can be valued. It is golf as it was supposed to be, if you wanted to steal from the Bandon slogan.

On the field, the quarterfinals continued. Caleb Surratt, a friend of Blades, won his match, kept up his excellent performance into the afternoon, and defeated reigning champion Nicholas Dunlap in the semifinals.

But at that time, Blades and his father had left the grounds. Next week is the Tennessee State Amateur, so it was finally time to go. They had to board a plane. As the sun fell over Bandon, they were traveling east. A small wind was blowing when the maintenance team was outside doing some nighttime touch-ups, and it seemed to be a breath of fresh air.

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Photo Credit: JOSH SENS

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