On Jan. 1, Bryan Baumgarten changed the screen saver on his smartphone to serve as a constant reminder of his golf goals for 2015: qualify for the U.S. Junior Amateur and U.S. Amateur.
Lofty aspirations for a player who 20 months earlier wasn’t good enough to make the varsity golf team at Granite Bay High School.
In June, Baumgarten finished second among 75 players at Yolo Fliers to earn a spot in next week’s U.S. Junior in Bluffton, S.C. On Monday at Rancho Murieta, he shot a 7-under-par 135 over 36 holes to again finish second among 75 and earn a spot in the U.S. Amateur at Olympia Fields in Illinois in August.
“I knew if I qualified for the Junior Am, I could possibly go to a (college) I really wanted to. Maybe join my brother at Oregon,” said Baumgarten, 17, a high school senior. “So I thought if I worked my tail off and hopefully was on my ‘A’ game, I might qualify. I worked my tail off, got better, found a groove.
“Once I made the Junior Am, I was beyond ecstatic. (Monday), I thought, ‘Heck, this would be pretty cool.’ My family has ties to Chicago (near where the U.S. Amateur will be played) and goes there every summer; so my whole family will be there. It’s going to be an unbelievable experience.”
Brandon Baumgarten, 19, is a redshirt sophomore on the golf team at Oregon. The brothers’ bond, always strong, has tightened as their games have improved. They spend most days they’re not in a tournament knocking heads at Granite Bay Country Club. If it’s not a putting competition, it’s wolf. If it’s not for eight hours, it’s for 10.
If I can say at the end of the day I beat my brother, I’m a happy guy.
Bryan is particularly fond of old-fashioned match play.
“You can be super aggressive, try crazy shots,” he said. “It’s more for bragging rights than anything. If I can say at the end of the day I beat my brother, I’m a happy guy.”
Bryan was a Granite Bay freshman when Brandon was a senior, and he was disappointed he failed to qualify for varsity, where he could have competed alongside his brother. With his spring-summer surge that included a semifinal berth in the San Francisco City in April, Bryan’s college options have expanded significantly.
Oregon is one of the schools with which he’s talking.
“It’s definitely an option I’m weighing, if given the opportunity,” Bryan said.
Brandon, who trends toward quiet and serious, caddies for Bryan, a happy-go-lucky sort, whenever he can. He’ll be on the bag at the U.S. Amateur as part of the Illinois family affair.
“It’s going to be an amazing end of the summer,” Bryan said.
5,000-1 Odds for Charles Barkley to win the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship at Edgewood Tahoe
▪ Fresno State-bound Alex Lee, 18, of Gold River grabbed the third and final U.S. Amateur qualifying spot at Rancho Murieta.
▪ Folsom’s Emilee Hoffman, 17, was the medalist Monday during U.S. Women’s Amateur qualifying at Cameron Park with a 3-under 69. Elk Grove’s Gurman Kaur, 16, shot a 74 and earned a spot at Portland (Ore.) Golf Club next month in a playoff.
▪ Serrano’s Mark Morgan won the Sacramento County Senior at Bing Maloney with a two-day total of 4-under 140.
▪ The American Century Celebrity Golf Championship starts Friday at Edgewood Tahoe. Some selected odds to win: John Smoltz 6-1; John Elway 12-1; Mardy Fish 25-1; Jerry Rice 30-1; Steve Kerr 40-1; Sebastian Janikowski 50-1; Alex Smith 100-1; and Charles Barkley 5,000-1.
▪ Arbuckle’s Ben Geyer and Cameron Park amateur Corey Pereira are in the field for this week’s Web.com Tour Stonebrae Classic in Hayward.
Steve Pajak: 916-326-5526