Meader and Birdwell Medal, Honsa Earns Final Qualifying Spot to U.S. Junior Amateur

May 20, 2024 | 4 min.
By Nick Hunter

  MEDINA, Minn. – Taking advantage of a short eagle opportunity on his 13th hole Monday at Baker National Golf Course lifted Thomas Meader to a round of 4-under 68, earning a share of medalist honors and a spot in the 2024 U.S. Junior Amateur.

Joining Meader at the national championship at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., July 22-27 will be Jake Birdwell, who also fired a 4-under 68 to qualify for the second consecutive season, and by Joe Honsa, who survived a one-hole playoff to claim the final qualifying spot after a round of 70.

“It feels great to get in—I’ve tried to qualify the last two years,” Meader said Monday. “The thing I’m looking forward to the most is the experience and playing with the top guys in the world.”

Meader, a junior golfer at Mahtomedi High School, carded two birdies against one bogey during his front nine Monday to turn in 1-under for the round.

Meader chipped inside of eight feet at the par-5 10th and converted his birdie chance to move to 2-under for the day before sticking his second shot from 230 yards with a 4-iron to two feet for a tap-in eagle, carding a 68 to qualify for his first USGA championship.

“My ball-striking was good, and I was able to make some nice par saves,” Meader said after qualifying Monday. “I was just hoping to put a good round together and make a few birdies.

“It’s been an up-and-down last couple of weeks. I was at [White Bear Yacht Club] for an invite on Monday and finished eagle-birdie-birdie-birdie to shoot 69, and that sent me over the edge to start playing some good golf.”

A recent tweak to his putting stroke helped Birdwell find some confidence coming down the stretch of the high school season.

“I had a slow start with the putter this year, but I switched to a claw grip last week and shot a 65 my first round,” the Spring Lake Park standout and defending Class AAA individual champion said Monday.

Birdwell, the state’s top-ranked high school golfer and University of Illinois commit, came out firing with a pair of birdies over his first six holes Monday, but played the final three holes of his front nine in 1-over to turn in 1-under for the day.

Following an up-and-down for birdie at the par-5 10th, Birdwell dropped back-to-back birdies at the 12th and 13th put him at 4-under for the championship.

Left with eight feet for par at the last, Birdwell buried his putt to qualify for the second time in as many chances, advancing to match play at last year’s championship at Daniel Island Club in Charleston, S.C.

“Competing with all those guys on the highest level last year was so much fun,” he said. “I’m going in feeling well and playing well, so I think I have a good chance to go pretty far.”

Honsa, runner-up at the Class AAA championship to close out his sophomore season last year at Cretin-Derham Hall, started slowly with a bogey on his opening hole, but quickly found his footing by playing his next five holes in 5-under.

After rattling off three consecutive birdies beginning at the third, Honsa rolled in his eagle putt from six feet at the par-5 sixth to reach 4-under.

Following bogeys at the eighth and 12th holes Monday, Honsa rebounded by converting his birdie chance at the 13th, but would finish in a five-way tie for third at 2-under 70 with a bogey at the par-3 15th.

Chipping to three feet in the playoff, Honsa made his birdie putt to seal his invitation to his first USGA championship.

“I let a couple go on the back nine, but I didn’t let one bad shot lead to another and kept grinding the entire day,” Honsa said. “I thought my game was sharp enough and knew I had a chance to qualify. My goal was to shoot right around 70.

“It’s pretty awesome—this is my second time trying to qualify. It’s the top junior golf tournament in the world with the best competition, and the course sounds like it’s even better. I can’t wait.”

Colton Rich, a junior at Rochester Lourdes, finished as first alternate, while Leo Vincelli, a St. Thomas Academy sophomore, finished as second alternate.

The 106-year-old South Course at Oakland Hills Country Club will host its 11th USGA championship in July, but its first U.S. Junior Amateur.

The course has previously played host to six U.S. Opens (1924, 1937, 1951, 1961, 1985, 1996) two U.S. Amateur Championships (2002, 2016), a U.S. Women’s Amateur (1929) and the 2004 Ryder Cup.


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Nick Hunter

Nick Hunter got his start covering sports for the Mankato Free Press while attending Minnesota State University, Mankato. 

He then contributed to several online outlets, including Bleacher Report, prior to turning his focus to golf.

Hunter enters his 12th season covering golf in Minnesota as news editor for the MGA website. He resides in New Prague with his wife and two sons.

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