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Albany’s Joiner falls in match-play round of U.S. Junior Am, heads to Junior PGA

After bowing out earlier than expected in the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship in Truckee, Calif., Albany's Jacob Joiner is now headed to play the Junior PGA Championship, which begins Monday in Washington, D.C.

After bowing out earlier than expected in the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship in Truckee, Calif., Albany's Jacob Joiner is now headed to play the Junior PGA Championship, which begins Monday in Washington, D.C.

TRUCKEE, Calif. — Jacob Joiner is learning to put those tough losses behind him.

That’s what the Albany native was doing Thursday night, one day after being ousted in the match-play round of the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship in California, where he advanced to the Round of 64 before losing a heartbreaker on the final few holes.

“I felt great coming in,” said Joiner, who is home-schooled but — sans the usual high school exposure — has quickly risen as one of the top golfers in the nation and recently signed with Georgia Tech. “I just made some mental errors, and I guess (the positive) was I have learned from my mistakes.”

Joiner’s latest education on the golf course took place when he was in control of his head-to-head match against San Francisco’s Daniel Connolly on Wednesday, only to implode on No. 13, then fail to win another hole, losing 2 & 1.

“I was one-up after 12, and had things gone a little different on No. 13, I think I’m still playing,” Joiner said Thursday, one day before he was to hop a plane to his next event — the Junior PGA Championship in Washington, D.C. “I just beat myself more than anything. Mental mistakes and a few wayward shots, and that’s all it takes against top competition like this. But like I said, I learned a lot about myself this week.

“Most of all, I learned I could hang (with the best players in the country).”

After two rounds, Monday and Tuesday, Joiner was squarely in the mix in America’s most prestigious amateur golf tournament held every year. He was tied for 38th after finishing 4-over, which was three shots above the cut line to advance to match play. Joiner and Connolly played even through the first six holes, then Joiner took command on No. 7 and led for five of the next six holes. But a double-bogey on No. 13 admittedly messed with his confidence.

“It was crazy. I really felt in control before that hole,” he said.

It was Joiner’s second time playing on the West Coast, but he said this time it felt much different.

“Being among the best guys in the country in the biggest tournament of the year was a lot to take in,” he said. “But I think I handled (the pressure) well. To finish 38th (out of 156 golfers) after not playing my best felt pretty good. I figured out some stuff I need to work on and learned a lot.”

Joiner now turns his attention to the Junior PGA Championship, which will tee off Monday in the nation’s capitol and will contain much of the same field he competed against this week. Joiner qualified for the event by winning the Future Masters event in Alabama earlier this month and said that trumped his qualification for the U.S. Junior Amateur.

“That was an amazing week (qualifying for the Junior Am earlier in the week and then winning the Future Masters later in the week),” Joiner said. “It’s been a pretty good summer.”