Brett Sawaia, a Coronado High School graduate and an incoming freshman member of the UNLV golf team, birdied four of his first seven holes en route to low medalist in the 2022 U.S. Junior Sectional Qualifying. Palo Verde’s Mason Snyder, a Loyola commit, also qualified.—by Bill Bowman, Las Vegas Golf Insider
The one-day event was held June 15, 2022, at Jack Nicklaus’ Reflection Bay Golf Club.
With the win, Sawaia, along with Snyder, qualified for the 2022 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship scheduled for Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, July 25-30, 2022. Both are also members of the Southern Nevada Junior Golf Association.
Sawaia wound up at five-under par. Snyder, who tied for second at four-under par, also qualified to advance to the championship event by winning on the first playoff hole over Yaoting Zou. Zou is the first alternate while Alec Hilgers is the second alternate.
Sawaia said the front nine was solid but his back nine effort left a little to be desired…until the final hole.
“I put myself in good position on the front nine,” Sawaia said. ‘But I didn’t execute as well as I wanted on the back nine. I got a little nervous. I bogeyed 17. Then, on the last hole, I hunkered down and was really target-oriented. I hit a good drive and hit my approach to about a foot and tapped it in for a birdie and avoided a playoff.”
He said despite the win, he still wants to fine-tune his game before the championship in July.
“I need to get sharper with my wedges,” he said. “And I definitely need to stay grinding with the putter. That’s where the money is made.”
But in the end, he said making it to the finale is a great accomplishment.
“This was my last chance to qualify for the U.S. Junior Amateur so it’s nice to get the monkey off my back,” he said.
Now it’s time to focus on the big stage of the championship tournament.
“I’m playing well,” he said. “The opportunity to play in a USGA championship is great and it’s going to do a lot for my confidence as well.”
After a summer with a few more events and qualifiers as well as a lot of practice sessions it will be time to step up his game at the college level for the Rebels.
“I think the biggest challenges of moving to college golf will be getting situated, making adjustments and time management,” Sawaia said. “Now it’s on to the next level of competition.”