James Back isn’t satisfied. The returning sophomore from the USF men’s golf team isn’t satisfied simply being named West Coast Conference Freshman of the Year last season, and he isn’t satisfied with just qualifying for the 2011 U.S. Amateur Championship, which begins Monday in Wisconsin. He wants to win it.
The 20-year-old said, “It’s really not as easy as people think,” and said he’ll be happy at least making it into match play. That’s still a lofty feat on its own, as only the top 64 players — out of a pool of 312 — will advance into match
Back showcased his talent during qualifying for the event in July, when he captured medalist honors while shooting a 2-under-par 142 (67-75) at the Western Hills Golf and Country Club in Chino Hills.
His coach at USF, Rich Yokota, says Back has all the tools to go far in the tournament.
“I expect him to have a good shot at reaching match play,” Yokota said. “And in match play, anything can happen.”
Back moved from South Korea to America when he was 12 years old — a decision he said his parents made mainly so that he could pursue what was already a promising golf game. It provided Back a head start on much of the competition he faces now, and his parents, Ji Yun Bin and Byeoung Gi Back, have been encouraging his play throughout his journey.
“They always support me,” Back said. “I look at other kids, they travel by themselves to their tournaments, but my parents are always with me.”
While many call his freshman season a huge success, Back says the rigors of college life had an affect on him, and that he didn’t play his best.
“You got studying and all that, and you’re away from your parents and it’s hard to manage your time by yourself,” he said. “I had a pretty bad season.”
Yokota agrees that Back struggled midway through the season, a snag freshman athletes typically experience, but said the golfer got hot near the end of the season and helped the Dons win their second league title in three years.
“Just in time for us to reach the postseason,” Yokota said, “he started to play well and had a really good conference tournament. It was really huge for us to win the conference tournament, and he was a huge part of that
Back still wants more this week at the U.S. Amateur Championship.
“If I just make it to match play, then I might have a chance to win,” he said.
US Amateur Championship
WHERE: Erin Hills Golf Course, Erin, Wis.
COURSE: Par 72, 7,760 yards
TV: Wednesday, noon-2 p.m., Golf Channel; Thursday-Friday, 10 a.m.-noon, Golf Channel; Saturday-Sunday, 1 p.m.-3 p.m., NBC (KNTV, Ch. 11)