PINEHURST — When John Crooks participates in a press conference, usually the hall of fame coach is interviewed about his Campbell University golf teams.
On Thursday, he was one of two past U.S. Junior Amateur champions to participate in a preview gathering for the 73rd U.S. Junior Amateur Championship, which will be held July 19-24 at the Country Club of North Carolina (CCNC).
Along with 1958 champion Buddy Baker, Crooks entertained questions from regional and national media members at the club.
Crooks, who has guided his teams to a combined 33 NCAA postseason appearances in 31 years at Campbell, defeated future two-time U.S. Open champ Andy North in the 1967 Junior Am.
“As a golfer, you always wonder if you’re good enough, and today I still wonder if I’m good enough,” said Crooks, whose men’s and women’s teams have combined to win 25 conference titles.
“But there was a point in my life, once upon a time, when I was. That kind of confidence stays with you. And every time you hear the introduction (1967 U.S. Junior Amateur Champion), we get taller.”
The 2021 U.S. Junior Amateur is the latest USGA Championship to be held in North Carolina.
Pinehurst Resort staged the 2019 U.S. Amateur, while Old Chatham Golf Club in Durham hosted the U.S. Senior Amateur and Pine Needles held the U.S. Senior Women’s Open that same year. Pinehurst also hosted the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open and U.S. Open in consecutive weeks on its No. 2 course.
“This is one of the great golf courses in the United States,” said Crooks of CCNC’s Dogwood and Cardinal layouts. “When you play a great golf course, every pin placement requires a different strategy on every hole. The person who can come in, gets comfortable in the practice round and can absorb all the nuances of the course, they’ve got a chance.”
The field of 264 golfers (who have not reached their 19th birthday on or before July 24) for the event will come from 3,346 entries for qualifying that stretch through July 1. The top 64 golfers from 36 holes of stroke play will advance to match play with the championship set for July 24.
In addition to gold medal and custody of the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship trophy for one year, the 2021 winner receives an exemption to all future U.S. Junior Amateurs (if eligible), an exemption from qualifying for the next two U.S. Amateurs (2021, 2022) and an exemption from qualifying for the 2022 U.S. Open.