Georgia, New Jersey to play for PGA Jr. League Championship title

By
Hayley Wilson
Special to PGA.com

Series: PGA

Published: Saturday, November 18, 2017 | 10:23 p.m.

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona – For a sixth consecutive year, a team representing the state of Georgia will make a run for the national title in the 2017 PGA Jr. League Championship presented by National Car Rental. 

However, instead of facing a team from California as various teams from the Peach State have for all of the five previous Championships, this year’s representative from Georgia (Duluth) will face a team from New Jersey (Hillsborough) at Grayhawk Golf Club. 

Both Georgia and New Jersey went undefeated, 3-0, in the Wanamaker and Ryder Divisions, respectively—and in impressive fashion. Georgia tallied a total of 29.5 of a possible 36 points in round-robin division play, while New Jersey amassed a stout 25.5 points.

MORE: Full coverage of the 2017 PGA Jr. League Golf Championship | Photos from Grayhawk

The two teams will face off for the 6th PGA Jr. League Championship presented by National Car Rental on Sunday. Meanwhile, Texas (Houston) and Ohio (Columbia Station) will compete for 3rd place honors; Arkansas (Little Rock) and California (San Jose) for 5th Place; and Illinois (Chicago) and New Hampshire (Atkinson) for 7th place.

The 80 boys and girls competing comprise eight Regional Champion teams from a record 42,000 kids who played in PGA Jr. League during 2017.

“We started this team back in June, when we picked our All-Star team,” said Team Georgia Captain and PGA Professional Patrick McCrary. “We knew we had a really good team going into it. When we got to Arizona, we knew we had a chance, if they played well. I’m really proud of them.”

“Each year, we move up to the next level,” said Team New Jersey Captain Anthony Latham, PGA. “I’ve been here four years in a row, and we’ve never got to the final. We look forward to playing Georgia, but with all of their firepower, we will have to play our best.”

In five previous trips to the Championship round, a team from Georgia has won once, when an Atlanta-based team (from Hamilton Mill Golf Club) captured the national title in 2013.

In Saturday’s day two of round-robin play, Team Georgia (Duluth) defeated Team New Hampshire 10-2 in the morning session; and followed up later in the day by beating California by a 9-3 count, in what essentially became a Championship play-in game.

Georgia teammates Reed Sweigart, 14, and Ethan Gao, 12, set the tone early, rolling off eight straight birdies after making par on their first hole played. Team Georgia played lights out from there for the Wanamaker Division title.

Gao also played on last year’s runner-up Team Georgia (Alpharetta). “Once we started getting it rolling, it was a little bit of a snowball effect,” said Sweigart.

“I’m a little bit longer off the tee, and I kind of take advantage of getting to the green,” added Sweigart. “But once we get around the green and on it, Ethan really takes control, and he’s a really great player down there.”

PGA Professional Anthony Latham has Captained Team New Jersey in five of the six years of competition. Half of his current team members are returning Championship competitors. This year marks the first time New Jersey has advanced to the final round.

New Jersey and Team Texas went head-to-head for the top spot in the Ryder Division Saturday afternoon. Ultimately, the veteran New Jersey squad bested Texas team 7.5 to 4.5 points to clinch the Division.

Thirteen-year-old Logan Paczewski of Dallas, Pennsylvania, and 14-year-old Garrett Engle of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, proved to be quite the duo for Team New Jersey, as they swept all three of their matches on Friday and Saturday.

“I’ve been here three years in a row, and we’ve never come close to the national championship,” said Paczewski. “This has been a great experience.”

“I think that New Jersey will give us a battle tomorrow, and I’m looking forward to it,” said Georgia Captain McCrary.

In the Ryder Division, Texas and Arkansas finished tied in division play at 1-1-1. Texas earned the right to play for third place on a tiebreaker of points (17.5 vs. 16). Similarly, in the Wanamaker Division, a three-way tie between Ohio (15 points), California (14) and New Hampshire (13.5) came down to points for rights to place for third, fifth and seventh place respectively.

Final rounds begin Sunday, Nov. 18, at 8:30 a.m.

Golf Channel To Air Championship Telecast Dec. 5

For the second consecutive year, PGA of America, Grayhawk Golf Club and National Car Rental have partnered with Golf Channel to air a two-hour, primetime special highlighting the 2017 PGA Jr. League Championship presented by National Car Rental. The special will air Dec. 5 (Tuesday) at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT, with a rebroadcast at 12:30 a.m. ET/9:30 p.m. PT.

Ryder Division
New Jersey (Hillsborough): 3-0-0, 25.5 points*
Texas (Houston): 1-1-1, 17.5 points
Arkansas (Little Rock): 1-1-1, 16 points
Illinois (Chicago): 0-3-0, 13 points

Wanamaker Division
Georgia (Duluth): 3-0-0, 29.5 points*
Ohio (Columbia Station): 1-2-0, 15 points
California (San Jose): 1-2-0, 14 points
New Hampshire (Atkinson): 1-2-0, 13.5 points

*Won Division Title

Championship Match
Georgia vs. New Jersey

3rd Place Match
Texas vs. Ohio

5th Place Match
Arkansas vs. California

7th Place Match
Illinois vs. New Hampshire

Past Champions
2016: California (Livermore); 8 to 4; Grayhawk Golf Club (Scottsdale, Ariz.)
2015: California (San Diego); Playoff (1st hole); Disney’s Palm Course (Lake Buena Vista, Fla.)
2014: California (San Ramon); 7 to 5; TPC Sugarloaf (Duluth, Ga.)
2013: Georgia (Atlanta); 6 ½ to 5 ½; TPC Sugarloaf (Duluth, Ga.)
2012: California (San Francisco); 8 ½ to 3 ½; Cog Hill Golf & Country Club (Lemont, Ill.)