SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (Oct. 13, 2019) – Sundays are never boring at the PGA Jr. League Championship presented by National Car Rental, especially when five teams are still alive for all the glory at Grayhawk Golf Club.
Between early morning upsets by newcomers to the Championship and close-call victories for veteran squads, the third and fourth sessions saw both 2014 National Champions Team California (San Ramon) and 2018 3rd Place Team Texas (Montgomery/Houston) remain undefeated to hold onto their Wanamaker and Ryder Division leads, respectively.
Still, it will be a wild finish, as the scenarios for Monday morning are mindboggling. As it stands, essentially five teams are in contention for the Championship and 3rd place games:Team California and Team Georgia (Duluth/Atlanta) in the Wanamaker Division; and Team Texas, Team Minnesota (Blaine/Minneapolis) and Team North Carolina (Charlotte) in theRyder Division.
Team California and Team Georgia have secured their spots atop the Wanamaker Division. The winner of their head-to-head game Monday moves forward to compete against the winner of the Ryder Division for the National Title, and the loser will play in the Third-Place Match.
Across the Wanamaker Division, Team California sits in first place with a 4-0-0 record and 36 points, followed by Team Georgia at 3-1-0 and 28 points. In 3rd place is Team Illinois (Lemont/Chicago) with a 2-2-0 record and 22 ½ points, trailed by Team Oklahoma (Tulsa) at 1-3-0 and 22 ½ points. In 5th place is Team Connecticut (Hartford) at 1-3-0 and 18 points, and in 6th is Team New York (Farmingdale/Long Island) with a 1-3-0 record and 17 points.
Team California powered through its Sunday match-ups, defeating Team Oklahoma 8-4 and Team New York 10-2. The final flag of their Oklahoma game was crucial, but Team California Captain Jim Collins, PGA, stands firm behind his strategy to keep his players focused on the present.
“I tend not to inform the players of the results while they’re out there,” said Collins. “They don’t need the added noise in their brain about how the match is going.”
Team California’s Edan Cui, 12, of Atherton, takes Collins’ coaching to heart.
“Don’t get ahead of yourself and play shot-by-shot,” Cui said of his team’s strategy.
In Saturday’s upset, rookies Team New York defeated 2017 National Champions Team Georgia with a 7 ½-4 ½ victory.
“I was in tears,” said Team New York Captain Kelley Brooke, LPGA, of Bethpage State Park Golf Course. “Who would have thought that a first-time group with a bunch of 10-and-11-year-olds could beat Georgia? I said to them, ‘Listen, we’re not playing football, we’re playing golf… you can get the ball in the hole just like they can.’”
Team Georgia made its moves in the afternoon, with a win over Team Connecticut 8 ½-3 ½.
“This win is big,” said Team Georgia Captain Patrick McCrary, PGA. “We had to win this game to stay alive and control our own destiny for tomorrow. The kids played well and bounced back from morning matches against New York.”
Win or lose, that just-so-happy-to-be-here attitude shone brightly from both Brooke and her players.
“We think we’re just going to quit the tournament now and go to the pool!” she exclaimed.
Team Texas (Montgomery/Houston), Team Minnesota (Blaine/Minneapolis) and Team North Carolina (Charlotte) have made things interesting in the Ryder Division.
PGA Jr. League tiebreaker rules are playing a key role in these standings. In the event of a tie with the overall record, the winner of the teams’ head-to-head game will be used…if still tied, the most points won; then, the total number of holes won in head-to-head game; and if they are still tied, the total number of overall holes won.
Heading into Monday’s fifth session of play, Team Texas (Montgomery/Houston) leads theRyder Division with a 4-0-0 record and 31 ½ points. In 2nd place sits Team Minnesota (Blaine/Minneapolis) with a 3-1-0 record and 25 points, and in 3rd is Team North Carolina (Charlotte) with a 3-1-0 record and 29 points. Team Ohio (Columbia Station/Cleveland) sits in 4th place with a 1-3-0 record and 21 points, trailed by Team Washington (Bellingham) in 5th at 1-3-0 and 19 points. Team Louisiana (Shreveport) is in 6th place with a 0-4-0 record and 18 ½ points.
Team Texas maintained its perfect record following wins over Team Minnesota 8 ½-3 ½ and Team Louisiana 6 ½-5 ½. The day’s anticipated matchup against Minnesota served up déjà vu for Team Texas Captain Ben Willman, PGA.
“Minnesota beat us last year in the knockout round, and it cost us from playing for the national title,” said Willman. “So, we had some added incentive, especially with five kids returning from last year.
Confidence and positivity were a continuous theme among competitors across both divisions.
“We need to just continue to play with confidence,” said Jackson Bade, 13. “Don’t get negative on the golf course. It just gets you down.”
Their narrow win over Team Louisiana was by just a point. Afterwards, both teams showed great sportsmanship, posing arm-in-arm for a photo following their game.
“It was a crazy, crazy match-up…great scoring,” said Willman. “The Louisiana team played fantastic. This was definitely our hardest match. They’re good players, good kids.”
Rookies Team North Carolina had quite the rally today after carding wins over Team Washington and Team Ohio, both with scores of 7 ½-4 ½. And now with an identical 3-1-0 record, the team’s game against Minnesota is of utmost importance.
“It was a matter of keeping them pumped and excited,” said Team North Carolina Coach Taryn Wolford, PGA. “We made a couple of adjustments today going into the first game, and we kept those basically the same for the second, and it worked out really well.”
Superstar duo Will Hartman, 13, of Marvin, and Cornell Beans, 13, of Charlotte, led the Carolina squad.
“He [Cornell Beans] hit the iron shots, and I made the putts,” said Hartman. “It was really nice to have a teammate, so when one of us hit a bad shot, we would just cheer the other one up and move onto the next.”
The 8th PGA Jr. League Championship presented by National Car Rental continues Monday morning with the final session of divisional play. On Monday afternoon, the top team from each division will compete for the national title, and the 2nd place teams from each division will vie for 3rd place.
Live scoring, stories and updates can be found here.
Ryder Division Standings
Team Texas (Montgomery/Houston): 4-0-0 Record, 31 ½ Points
Team Minnesota (Blaine/Minneapolis): 3-1-0 Record, 25 Points*
Team North Carolina (Charlotte): 3-1-0 Record, 29 Points
Team Ohio (Columbia Station/Cleveland): 1-3-0 Record, 21 Points
Team Washington (Bellingham): 1-3-0 Record, 19 Points
Team Louisiana (Shreveport): 0-4-0 Record, 18 ½ Points
*Tiebreaker head-to-head rules put Minnesota over North Carolina for 2nd place, despite less points.
Wanamaker Division Standings
California (San Ramon): 4-0-0 Record, 36 Points
Georgia (Duluth/Atlanta): 3-1-0 Record, 28 Points
Illinois (Lemont/Chicago): 2-2-0 Record, 22 ½ Points
Oklahoma (Tulsa): 1-3-0 Record, 22 ½ Points
Connecticut (Harwinton/Hartford): 1-3-0 Record, 18 Points
New York (Farmingdale/Long Island): 1-3-0 Record, 17 Points