BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. – Eight days ago, Noah Goodwin withdrew from the Junior PGA Championship with sharp pain in his upper back.
It seemed like an innocuous incident – he had ripped a drive but didn’t feel right – but after a stinger 3-wood on his seventh hole of the first round, “it felt like somebody was stabbing a knife into my back. I just couldn’t do it after that.”
Diagnosed with a strained lat, Goodwin spent the next few days face down on the bed with ice packs on his back. There was talk of withdrawing from this week's U.S. Amateur, but those conversations always ended the same way: “I was going to try to tough it out the best I could.”
And so when Goodwin – the top-ranked junior player in the country – arrived at Oakland Hills, he hit only a few balls and didn’t even bother with a practice round on the easier North Course. He still shot even par there in the stroke-play qualifier, despite seeing the track for the first time. Goodwin’s 2-under 138 total was good enough to grab the 16th seed in match play.
Goodwin says he felt the most pain on the range, as he was getting loose with his short wedge shots. Once he got on the course, however, “everything gets going and adrenaline kicks in.”
Through 13 holes Wednesday, Goodwin was 5 under par for the day but only 1 up on Clemson freshman Doc Redman. Goodwin lost the 14th with a bogey, then made a mess of the 17th, after his 3-wood on the 243-yard par 3 flew the green and left an awkward flop shot. One down on the last, he tried to hit 5-iron from the fairway bunker but barely caught the lip, leading to a bogey and a concession.
“I know my game is good enough,” he said, “I just need to polish up a few things.”
Goodwin, 16, was one of the country’s most highly sought-after prospects, and his profile rose even more after his recent loss in the U.S. Junior finals. He has given a verbal commitment to SMU, about an hour from his parents’ home in Corinth, Texas.
One of the main reasons he chose the Mustangs was the proximity to his swing coach, Cameron McCormick, who has taught Jordan Spieth since he was young. They’ve worked together for the past two years, and McCormick has improved Goodwin’s mindset and ability to fix his swing on the fly.
“I feel like that will be able to elevate myself past college and on to the next stage,” he said.