WHEELING - Thad Obecny has established himself as one of the premier junior golfers in the Ohio Valley and the state of West Virginia time and time again.
This afternoon, Obecny will begin the quest to be the premier junior golfer in the United States.
Obecny, who will be a senior at Wheeling Park next month, tees off the 10th at 4:15 p.m. (EST) to begin the first round of the 66th U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at Martis Camp Club in Truckee, Calif., which is about a half hour from Lake Tahoe.
"It's my first time going to California," Obecny said. "I'm really looking forward to this tournament."
The first two days of the Junior Amateur are stroke play. After those rounds, the field is cut from 150 to 64 and the tournament's champion is decided via match play.
"I've looked at the course and obviously, my goal is to win it, but I realize it's an accomplishment just to be a part of the field," Obecny said. "I'm not trying to impress anyone or anything. I'm just going out with a competitive attitude and want to win the tournament."
Obecny earned the right to compete after winning a qualifier in Beaver, Pa. last month shooting back-to-back rounds of 72 and 71. He won that tournament by 10 shots.
"I played the course the day before the tournament and I really liked it," Obecny said. "There were some good players in that field, but I played well and was able to win."
Obecny had attempted to qualify for the U.S. Junior Amateur the last two summers and came up short by a stroke both years.
"It was really exciting to finally get into this tournament," Obecny said.
Some of the notable past champions of this event are Tiger Woods (three times), David Duvall, Hunter Mahan and Jordan Spieth (twice).
The Central Florida commit arrived in California last Thursday to begin his preparations for the tournament, which included a couple of practice rounds.
Obecny is scheduled to return to the Ohio Valley on Saturday, but he won't be home long.
He leaves this Sunday for the Junior PGA Championship, which will be played from July 30-Aug. 2 at Trump National Golf Club in Potomac, Va.
"I think I've become more consistent on the course this summer," Obecny said. "My misses aren't as costly and I've not had as many bogeys. You can always get better and there's always one thing where you need to improve on at all times. One thing I've learned in some of these bigger tournaments that you should make your pars and birdies will come. Sometimes you can get anxious, but you've got to calm down."
He's spent much of the summer on the road. He's either been playing tournaments in the tri-state area or in Florida working with his swing coach.
"I've been everywhere this summer," Obecny said. "I had a little bit of a break (early in July), but it really gets going again (this week). I probably took two full weeks off overall during the summer."
Obecny believes that he plays exceptionally well this week and/or at the Junior PGA Championship, he could be offered an exemption for a PGA Tour event next season, which is his ultimate goal.
Obecny entered a sectional qualifier for the U.S. Open that was held last month at Merion and he also attempted to qualify for the U.S. Amateur, but narrowly missed advancing in both events.
High school golf season begins early next month for Obecny.
"I really like the guys on the team and we should do well this season," Obecny said. "My high school career has really gone quickly. It feels like just yesterday that I was a freshman."