UA's Turner Leads U.S. Amateur Qualifiers

FAYETTEVILLE -- Jason Turner, an Arkansas sophomore golfer from Little Rock, has qualified for the U.S. Amateur in his sixth attempt.

Turner, 19, led 130 golfers vying for five spots at the Saddlerock Golf Club in Denver, Colo., with rounds of 71-68 for 5-under-par 139. Three players tied for second at 140.

Jordan Payne, an incoming UA freshman from West Memphis, also qualified for the U.S. Amateur, to be played Aug. 22-28 at Merion, Pa.

Payne had the second best qualifying total at Memphis, Tenn.

Turner has been living this summer at his family's summer home in Keystone, Colo.

"I played pretty well last fall, but I lost my confidence during the spring and I came out here to try to get it back," Turner said.

After an uneventful first 18 holes at Saddlerock, Turner hit some spectacular shots during his second round.

"I holed an 8-iron shot from 183 yards for my second shot on the (par-4) ninth hole," Turner said. "The ball travels a long way at this altitude. I heard it hit the flagstick, and then someone said, 'Dude, you dunked it!'"

Turner holed out for another deuce at the par-3 16th, when he chipped in from 15 yards beyond the green.

"The ball went another 70 feet after it got on the green," Turner said.

At No. 14, also a par 3, Turner made a 60-foot putt for yet another 2 on his scorecard.

"I called (UA coach) Mike Ketcham and he was pretty excited," Turner said. "He was really happy for me."

Turner played in two fall tournaments for the Razorbacks as a freshman last season, placing 50th in his first one and then tying for fourth in his second event.

He has never played the storied Merion course, site of many U.S. Opens, but he said, "I know it has wicker baskets on the flagsticks, and it's where Bobby Jones completed his Grand Slam."

Turner, son of former Fayetteville resident Rick Turner and grandson of former UA football assistant Ken Turner, has dreamed of playing in the U.S. Amateur since age 14.

"When I was 14, I missed a playoff by one shot in Amateur qualifying," Turner recalled. "When I was 15, I was fourth or fifth; I was an alternate. Then the last three years, I didn't play very well in the qualifiers."

Turner said there would be more Amateur qualifying opportunities next week for another Razorback player or two.

Turner's second round at Saddlerock was played in windy, rainy conditions, but he said Thursday, "Today it's 70 degrees here, with no humidity."

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