Welcome to the Luke Clanton show.
If you’re unfamiliar with the 17-year-old from Miami Lakes, Florida, let me hit you with some knowledge. He’s committed to Florida State, has won the Class 2A state title in two of the last three years and is off to a blistering start at this year’s U.S. Junior Amateur at The Country Club of North Carolina in the Village of Pinehurst.
“It was kind of funny because me and Ben were talking on the first tee and we kind of knew the whole day was going to be one-sided with the crowd,” explained Clanton.
Clanton took down top-seed Kelly Chinn in the morning Round of 32 on Thursday, 1 up, and then defeated Pinehurst local favorite Jackson Van Paris, 2 and 1, in the Round of 16.
U.S. Junior: Match results
“But it was an unbelievable experience with everyone out here. I can’t even think – I was looking down an iron shot and I saw like a bunch of people surrounding the green, so that’s kind of cool,” he continued. “I just said, ‘one shot at a time,’ and I played really well today. I think I only had one bogey and five birdies. It was just kind of one of those days where I took it one shot at a time, and Jackson is a great opponent, great player, known him for a while. It was fun today, and I just played a little bit better today. That’s it.”
Already this year, Clanton has three top-5 finishes, including a T-2 at the Dustin Johnson Junior Worlds. Last year he won the Arnold Palmer Invitational Junior and posted three top-10 finishes.
“He’s a great player, and he’s definitely a guy that you go into the match knowing you have to play good to beat,” said Van Paris after the match. “He’s not going to lay over. He’s a great competitor. I have no doubt that he’ll continue playing well and keep it going for the rest of the week.”
Awaiting Clanton in the quarterfinals is Vanderbilt-bound Gordon Sargent, a two-time defending Alabama State Amateur champion and three-time Rolex Junior All-American.
For Clanton, he believes in himself just as much as Van Paris.
“My goal is to win,” he said.