Residence: Pinehurst, North Carolina
High School: Pinecrest High School ‘21
College Commitment: Vanderbilt
WAGR® 18-and-under Ranking: No. 12 (as of 6/30)
Accomplishments: Runner-up of 2021 North & South Amateur. Individual Champion of 2021 N.C. High School 4A State Championship. Winner of 2020 Junior Invitational at Sage Valley. Winner of 2019 AJGA Simplify Boys Championship. 2017 and 2018 Rolex Junior All American. Round of 32 in 2018 U.S. Amateur Championship at Pebble Beach as 14-year-old. Youngest to win a match in U.S. Amateur since Bobby Jones in 1916.
Jackson Van Paris likely has more ‘local knowledge’ than any player in the field at the 73rd U.S. Junior Amateur that being played on his home courses at CCNC. His family moved to Pinehurst from Chicago in the spring of 2015, settling on a house near the 14th hole of Cardinal. They recently moved to a house on the 6th hole of the same course.
Jackson has built an impressive golf resume. On July 4, he was the runner-up in the North & South Amateur at Pinehurst No. 2. He claimed the individual state championship for Pinecrest on the same course in May. Most notably, Van Paris made it to the Round of 32 in the 2018 U.S. Amateur Championship at Pebble Beach at 14 years old, making him the youngest player to win a match in U.S. Amateur since Bobby Jones in 1916.
How does your run at the North & South Amateur help prepare you for the U.S. Junior Am?
“It did so much to mentally prepare me for the Junior Amateur. It gives me the confidence going into it to know that I can play really well in front of a home crowd. It helped me remember how much I enjoy playing in front of people. I really enjoyed myself all week on the golf course, and I think that’s part of the reason I played so well. Seeing so many friends and familiar faces just loosens me up, and I think it helps my golf game.”
How excited are you for the U.S. Junior Am?
“I cannot wait for the week of the tournament. It’s going to be really cool having everyone come to CCNC. Being able to wake up and look out my bedroom window and see people playing in the actual Junior Amateur will be really cool. I’m trying to not get too excited because I don’t want to not play well and have it be a letdown. I know I’m going to enjoy myself however many rounds I get to play. Hopefully, it will be like the North & South Amateur where I make a deep run and the crowds get bigger and bigger each day. I’m going to take it one step at a time and try not to get ahead of myself. I’ll really try and focus on what I’m doing and not get caught up in all the distractions of playing on my home course.”
What about the Dogwood and Cardinal courses make CCNC a good place to host the best juniors in the world?
“I think that they are two really good and really fair golf courses. It’s not very common that you find a club that hosts an event that has two really good courses. Usually, it’s one really good one and one pretty good one, but Cardinal and Dogwood are both really good. The courses are not tricked out or gimmicky, it’s all right there in front of you. I think the courses are really good at rewarding whoever hits the best golf shots and whoever plays the best. It’s going to be a physical and mental challenge, especially with the way the USGA will set it up. They’re tough, good, and fair golf courses, which I think are three of the most important elements to a really good championship.”
Is there one course in particular that you think you’ll have a bigger advantage on?
“I lived on 14 and then moved to 6 of Cardinal, so I’ve obviously chipped and putted a ton on those greens at night. I think I’ll be able to have a really big advantage on Cardinal, especially since everyone will be more focused on Dogwood because it’s the match-play course. Having that advantage on Cardinal will allow me to play more stress-free in stroke play. It should take the pressure off me and help me stay patient throughout the week.”
What advice would you give to players coming to play at CCNC for the first time?
“Stay below the hole on the greens. It’s one of those golf courses where you can put yourself in some really tricky spots on or around the greens. They’ll get them fast and firm enough to where, if you’re chipping from a short-sided spot, you might even have trouble keeping it on the green. Also, hitting it in the fairway will be really important. When they start growing out the rough, putting tricky pins, and firming up the greens; it’s that entire combination that makes playing out of the rough really difficult out here. The nice thing about these two courses is that it tests everything about your game. You’ve got to have everything clicking to play well and make a deep run in match play.”
By Taft Gantt