On July 25, 17-year-old La Jolla High student Perry Cohen competed in the U.S. Amateur Sectional Qualifier in Medford, Ore., where typically college-aged and older golfers compete. Enduring the test of stamina that is a 36-hole course (taking 9 to 10 hours to complete), Cohen finished at 8 under par.
The U.S. Amateur is considered the most prestigious amateur golf tournament in the country, and there are typically two to five spots in the tournament for the best scorers in the Sectional Qualifier. However, this year there is only one spot, because
the course on which the U.S. Amateur is played (Brookline, Massachusetts Country Club) is smaller than usual and cannot accommodate as many players.
However, having only one spot didn’t bother Cohen because he said he participated with the attitude of having a good time.
“I went into the tournament not expecting much because I knew how big it was and understanding the competition I was playing with,” he said. “So we went in wishing for the best, playing a good round and seeing how I stand with college players.”
Cohen said having only one spot actually decreased the pressure because it seemed that much further away and less likely he would get it. While one of five spots seemed possible, one of one didn’t.
But after the first of two rounds, at which he scored 4 under par overall, he started to entertain the notion. After the second round, the seed was officially planted.
“They were probably the best rounds of my life ... of all the days, it’s pretty nice I was able to do so well there,” he said. “I started getting (the idea that I might qualify) in my head.”
As Perry relished in completing the tourney and the possibility of winning the coveted spot, Oregon-based Northwest Christian College junior Tyler Falk was an hour behind him, slowly gaining on him. Falk also scored 4 under par in the first round, and Cohen’s tee time was an hour before Falk’s.
“For a good hour, I was pretty happy,” Cohen joked, wondering if his score could be caught. However, Falk played exceptionally well in the second round, and beat Cohen’s score by one. Falk finished at 9 under par overall.
Because Cohen did so well, if Falk drops out of the U.S. Amateur, he is first in line to fill the spot. If someone else drops out, the U.S. Golf Association has a way of determining who would most appropriately replace them.
Because Cohen went in with the goal of simply playing well, he said he wasn’t upset. Disappointed, yes, but not upset. A big part of that attitude could be attributed to his caddy, assistant LJHS golf coach Jack Klein, who kept him focused.
“He did a good job keeping my nerves down and talking to me and letting me get off (the idea) so I didn’t focus much on qualifying, just on my game,” Cohen said. “He’s just all around great guy.”
Cohen also extended gratitude to his father for supporting his efforts, and to his golf coach, Bob Townsend.
This year Cohen said he would compete in a few more tournaments while deciding which college he would like to attend.