Not surprisingly, doors flew open for Caleb Surratt when he learned how to win. After a 2020 golf season during which Surratt appeared in the final pairing in the final round over and over, but never came home with anything to show for it, something clicked in April at the Terra Cotta Invitational.
“I’ve got to disconnect from results and not waste my energy on reacting to shots,” Surratt explained. “I felt like I used to try to control everything that happens. Just kind of in that final round (at Terra Cotta) is when it finally clicked, I’m going to put all my energy into my process over the ball and then wherever the ball goes, goes.”
It’s an epiphany that took quite a bit of time. Surratt has spent lots of energy with swing instructor Chase Duncan in Raleigh, North Carolina – near the Surratts’ home of Indian Trails, North Carolina – working not only through the finer points of closing but also improving his golf swing and finding a process that works for him.
Scores: U.S. Junior Amateur
He used to get lazy over shots, he remembers, and sometimes come down under plane, which caused him to lose his posture at the ball. It was a move, he said, that was “not very high-competitive profile.” Add that fix, which has taken quite a bit of work plus physical and mental maturity, and Surratt’s presence on leaderboard after leaderboard isn’t all that surprising.
Surratt’s is one of the great growth stories in junior golf right now. He’s the recent Western Junior champion and entered this week’s U.S. Junior off a win last week at the Junior PGA Championship.
“I really want to win the U.S. Junior, to be honest with you,” Surratt said when asked for his next goal. “That was the goal at the start of the year, and I’m still in a position to do that.”
At the Country Club of North Carolina this week, there have been many mini wins. Rounds of 70-67 set him up with the No. 5 spot on the bracket. He narrowly dispatched Daniel Choi in the first round of match play, 1 up, and took down Rowan Sullivan in the next round by a more comfortable 5-and-4 margin.
Remarkably, given his resume, this is Surratt’s debut in the U.S. Junior. He has seemingly been in the conversation at every major junior event for a year: runner-up at the 2020 Dustin Johnson World Junior, third at the 2020 Ping Invitational and runner-up again at the 2020 Jones Cup Junior. He has top-10 finishes already this year at the Scott Robertson, Team TaylorMade Invitational and Wyndham Invitational.
“I just think, over the years, I feel like I’ve really just matured physically,” he said. “My body has gotten a lot stronger and I’ve been able to hit a lot of different shots but mainly I feel like I’m working with some great coaches now.”
As Surratt moves toward a college career at Tennessee (he has verbally committed for the fall of 2022), he’s also looking at ways to break through on Tour. He narrowly missed Monday qualifying into the Palmetto Championship earlier this summer and has played Monday qualifiers for the Wells Fargo and Wyndham Championship, too.
Despite an early-week announcement that the Junior Ryder Cup has been canceled this fall because of COVID-19 reasons (the European team will not travel to Whistling Straits in light of the lingering pandemic), Surratt can expect some facetime with the Ryder Cup team, too.
Surratt was the first player named to the junior team last week when he won the Junior PGA Championship at Kearney Hills in Lexington, Kentucky. He called making the team a lifelong goal, and is thankful U.S. team members will still be invited to Whistling Straits for the event.
“I’m honestly really happy they’re still making it happen that way we can still go hang out with all our friends and have a great week and still feel like it’s truly going on even though Europe won’t be able to come,” he said. “I’m excited for the experience, I think it’s still going to be really good.”