PINEHURST, N.C. — Austin Squires was Cinderella at Pinehurst Resort, thanks to being just the third No. 64 seed to ever reach the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur Championship. But he had the label stolen away on Friday afternoon by a teenager who probably should have been carrying it all along.
Cohen Trolio is 17 and about to enter 11th grade back in West Point, Miss. While a solid junior golfer who has already committed to playing collegiately at LSU, he is just 119th in the AJGA Rolex Boys’ Ranking. Which is a lot higher than his position in the World Amateur Golf Ranking because, well, he has no position. He’s unranked, thanks to the fact he’s never played individually in a national level amateur tournament until this week (he did compete with Hunter Logan at the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball in 2018).
Maybe the first time really is the charm. Despite Squires, a recent college grad outdriving him by 40 to 50 yards on most holes, Trolio won their rain-interrupted match, 3 and 1. In his four victories en route to Saturday’s semifinal against Georgia Tech’s Andy Ogletree, Trolio has yet to trail at any time on the No. 2 course.
While Trolio hasn’t played in any previous amateur tournaments, that’s not to say he hasn’t beaten quality amateur (and professional) competition. His father, V.J., is the head teaching professional at Old Waverly Golf Club, and Trolio finds himself regularly competing against top amateurs (including several golfers on the Mississippi State and Ole Miss golf teams) and professional players there and at neighboring Mossy Oaks.
“I’ve gotten a little bit of Jim Gallagher Jr,” Trolio said with a bit of cockiness in his voice, only to stop himself from actually sounding cocky. “Now, he can still put up a fight … but I got him once or twice.”
V.J., who is also working as Cohen’s caddie this week, doesn’t like talking much about his son’s game, deflecting any credit for his development. But there is something that he’s refused to let Cohen do that might be the thing that’s helped him become a more complete golfer.
Growing up, V.J., off the advice Gallagher (a five-time PGA Tour winner) and Loren Roberts, forbid his son from using a wedge any higher than a 52 degree. Only when he turned 11, was he able to go up in loft, getting to use a 54-degree wedge. When he turned 16, Cohen then got permission to put a 56-degree club in the bag.
“If you have to hit a 60 degree, you don’t have any talent,” V.J. said. “I told him when you get your driver’s license, you can get a 56 degree.”
But hasn’t that put Cohen at a disadvantage?
“I don’t feel that way,” Cohen said, “because I’ve learned, obviously, playing with a 54 and 52 you don’t short-side yourself. You can’t.”
Suffice it to say, the skills he’s developed with his short game have paid off at Pinehurst, where the tricky humped-back greens put a premium on creativity and feel.
As the week has gone on, Trolio has managed his nerves as well. Asked if he’s felt any pressure yet this week, his answer was fairly direct.
“Not really,” Trolio said. “I mean, I'm just kind of here. I do this every day. I mean, I play golf every day. So not really, to be honest with you.
Perhaps that will change come Saturday. While reaching the semifinals at the U.S. Amateur is no small feat, winning the semifinals comes with some big perks. Specifically, the traditional invite to the Masters and an exemption into the U.S. Open. And if Trolio could go all the way and win, he would become the youngest U.S. Amateur champ by nearly 11 months.
For now, Trolio is taking this as it comes.
“It's cool. It's crazy, but it's awesome. I know that I've still got a couple more steps to go, so we aren't getting too crazy excited. But it's cool.”