In the shadows of greatness

Riecks readies for next week's prestigious 66th U.S. Jr. Amateur golf championship
By: Mike Ray, Gold Country News Service
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Cody Riecks will be treading on hallowed ground next week.

When Riecks tees it up at the 66th United States Golf Association’s Jr. Amateur Championship at Martis Camp in Truckee, the 17-year-old Auburn resident will be following in the footsteps of the likes of former winners Johnny Miller, David Duval, Hunter Mahan and Tiger Woods.

Speaking of Woods, he won the prestigious tournament an unprecedented three straight times from 1991-93.  

“It’s quite a list of players who have won this tournament,” Riecks said. “It’s going to be an experience. I’m really honored.”

Two years ago Jordan Spieth captured the USGA Jr. Amateur crown at Gold Mountain in Bremerton, Wash. This past Sunday, Spieth, 19, became the youngest winner on the PGA Tour in 82 years when he outlasted Zach Johnson and David Hearn in a five-hole playoff at the John Deere Classic.

“There’s definitely a lot of great golfers who have played in this tournament,” Riecks said. “A lot of the players have gone on to great careers.”

Riecks played his first two seasons of high school golf at Placer before going the home-school route this past year to put more emphasis on his golf game. So far, the move has paid dividends.

“I’m playing pretty well right now,” said Riecks, who last week finished second in a Stableford-type scoring junior tournament in Monterey. “I’m hitting it pretty solid and putting well.”

Riecks, who averages 300 yards off the tee, used a big effort at the recent U.S. Jr. Amateur qualifying tournament at Yolo Fliers in Woodland to earn his berth into the championship tourney.

Playing in a grueling 36-hole, one-day qualifying format, Riecks shot 70-72 for a 142 total that placed him second behind Roseville’s Cory Eddings, who was the medalist with a 140. Only the top four finishers earned berths to Truckee.

It was the second time that Riecks had performed well at Yolo Fliers. Two years ago he shot par at the course to earn a berth in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Tournament.

“Yolo Fliers has been pretty good for me,” Riecks said. “I have played well there.”

Echoing Riecks’ comments was his swing coach, Phil Dawson.

“He’s physically gifted and immensely talented,” said Dawson, who has three students playing in next week’s tournament. “Cody’s a late-bloomer. He’s being pretty conservative saying he’s just hitting it 300 yards with the driver.”

Dawson, who instructs out of Morgan Creek in Roseville, noted that the U.S. Amateur is a tournament that draws national exposure.

“This tournament has the top echelon junior golfers from across the country,” Dawson said. “College recruiters use this type of tournament as a measuring stick.”

Riecks’ athletic success follows in the footsteps of his older siblings, Cory and Kasey.

Cory, a volleyball standout at Placer who went on to play at Pepperdine, has played professionally in Germany the past three years while his sister Kasey holds most of  Placer High’s girls basketball scoring records. She went on to have a fine hoops career at UC Davis.

Cody Riecks noted that his family has rented a condo in the Truckee area for the big week, which starts with mandatory practice rounds Friday and Saturday, moves to 36-hole qualifying starting on Monday before proceeding to match play on Wednesday.

The quarterfinals of the tournament and the championship match will be televised live on the Golf Channel, July 26-27.

“This is a once in a lifetime experience,” Riecks said. “I’m going to go up there and play, enjoy the experience and see what happens.”