A sizzling run of success is taking Palmer Jackson on a tour of some of the best golf courses in the country.
He is living the dream, as they say, "And I'm loving it."
After winning a local qualifier Monday at Hannastown and Totteridge golf clubs, Jackson earned a spot in the U.S. Amateur on Aug. 13-19 at famed Pebble Beach.
"I have never been west of Chicago, so this will be something for me," said Jackson, who will be a senior at Franklin Regional. "It will be a whole new experience -- jet lag and all. But I have nothing to lose."
He already played a popular U.S. Open stop, Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J., for the U.S. Junior Amateur. Next week, he will play Valhalla Gof Club, the site of several PGA Championships and a Ryder Cup, for the Junior PGA Championship.
Jackson leaves for Louisville, Ky., on Saturday.
Come the high school season in the fall, the WPIAL finals will return to storied Oakmont Country Club.
Supreme confidence followed Jackson around Totteridge and Hannastown, where he is a member. He shot 69 at the former and 66 at the latter for a 7-under-par total and a three-shot win at Monday's qualifier. He made 11 birdies.
"I hit it pretty well and gave myself a lot of chances," he said. "I played with (qualifier) Brett Young, and we were chasing each other all day. I was 7-under through 12, had some gettable holes and wanted to get to 10-under. I made a couple mistakes but got it back. It was a pretty stress-free day."
Jeff Traphagen has watched Jackson from afar -- as his high school coach and as a spectator -- and has marveled at his shot-making ability and cool demeanor. But carrying Jackson's bag for 36 holes Monday wasn't just a rare treat. It afforded him a new perspective.
"He pays such attention to detail," Traphagen said. "I was able to see his irons up close. Every one of them has a mark on the sweet spot.
"College coaches like the way he carries himself on the course. He doesn't get too high or low. He made four bogeys and made a birdie after three of them. Coaches like that and the pace at which he plays."
Jackson, named after the legendary Arnold Palmer, has had a summer to remember and doesn't think his stellar play will end any time soon.
"It's just the start, hopefully," he said.
He carded top-10 finishes in a pair of AJGA tournaments and another in the Scott Robertson Memorial in Roanoke, Va., which "helped me gain more confidence," Jackson said. Then came the Sunnehanna Amateur, one of the top tournaments in the country for fast-rising talent.
"I missed the cut; double-bogeyed the last two holes," Jackson said "But that was something I learned from. I didn't get down on myself."
Two days later, he proved that, holing out an eagle pitch from 30 yards for a walkoff win at a U.S. Junior Amateur qualifier in Carlisle.
He played in the Frank B. Fuhrer Invitational, the lone amateur in the field, and finished 5-over for 72 holes, in 11th place.
He won the Westmoreland County Junior at Latrobe Country Club.
An opening-round 67 has him a shot back of the long-suspended West Penn Amateur, which will resume Aug. 20 at Fox Chapel Golf Club. Play was halted July 3 after a heavy rains flooded the course. Jackson is a shot off the lead.
Jackson earned a spot in the Junior PGA by holding off friend and rival Brady Pevarnik of Latrobe in a qualifier at Fox Run in Aliquippa.
"I feel really good going into this," Jackson said of the PGA. "The more I play in these competitive tournaments, the more comfortable I feel. It's like a revolving circle."
Jackson, who works with swing coach Matt Kluck of Mt. Lebanon, will have another local presence with him at the U.S. Amateur.
Oakmont's Sean Knapp, the reigning U.S. Senior Amateur champion, is exempt for the event, and Jackson said he and Knapp plan to play a practice round together at Pebble Beach.
This article is written by Bill Beckner Jr. from The Valley News-Dispatch, Tarentum, Pa. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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