High Math, a Hole-In-One and 300-Yard Drives On Display at the PGA Jr. League Championship

By Hayley Wilson
Published on
High Math, a Hole-In-One and 300-Yard Drives On Display at the PGA Jr. League Championship

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- What do math and golf have in common? Everything goes back to the number nine. More on this later…

Gathered at Grayhawk Golf Club for the second consecutive year, the 2017 PGA Jr. League Championship presented by National Car Rental brought players, Captains, Coaches and families together Thursday, Nov. 27, with a little golf and a little math.

Held each year on the eve of the PGA Jr. League Championship, the Skills Challenge provides the 80 boys and girls competing this week in the Championship an opportunity to play alongside their competitors and make new friends.

The day got started in fine fashion as Team Illinois’ Jack DiTrani hit his second hole-in-one during the morning’s practice round on the 97-yard Hole No. 16 of the Raptor Course at Grayhawk. DiTrani had just finished an appearance on Golf Channel’s Morning Drive before hitting his second ace, both of which have been made during PGA Jr. League events.

For the afternoon skills challenge, players were divided into teams, aptly named after each of the four PGA Jr. League Ambassadors. Teams Fowler, Wie, Thompson, and McIlroy compete in a series of stations, including chipping, long drive, long-distance putt, and closest-to-the-pin. This was all followed by a cornhole tournament among the teams.

Some special surprise appearances were made by 2006 U.S. Open Champion Geoff Ogilvy, joined by Olympian Graham DeLaet and 2007 U.S. Amateur Champion Colt Knost, who went shot-for-shot with PGA Jr. League golfers in a closest-to-the-pin challenge.

Team New Jersey took the title of longest drivers of the day. First, 14-year-old Garrett Engle drove the ball a whopping 308 yards. Engle was shortly followed by his teammate Joshua Ryan, also 14, who smashed the ball 312 yards, which he promptly followed with a 291-yarder. These “monster” drives occurred with virtually no wind to speak of.

“It’s crazy, because Tour Pros hit it that far,” said Ryan. “It’s probably the farthest I’ve ever hit.”

Meanwhile, 10-year-old Finn Burkholder of Team Texas – who kicked off his golf career at 2-years-old – dunked a shot at the chipping station to a roar from his teammates.

“I knew I had the right club with a 50-degree [wedge]. I hit my spot. It took a couple of bounces and just rolled in.”

When asked if he’s ever made such a great chip-in before? “Yeah, I do it often,” he replied.

After the Skills Challenge, Scott Flansburg – dubbed “The Human Calculator” – showcased his superhuman ability to add, subtract, multiply and divide. To make it even more interesting, he showed his mastery of the Gregorian calendar.

Flansburg asked for someone to volunteer their birthday. “January 6, 2005,” called out Hunter Po, of Team New Jersey.

Without missing a beat, Flansburg replied, “You were born on a Thursday. Remember when that happened?”

Now, back to the number nine. Flansburg explained how the number is at the base of his lightning-fast mathematical skills.

Take any number. Say, for example, we start with 18, for 18 holes of golf in a round. Add these two numbers: 1+8=9. Subtract 9 from the original 18: 18-9=9.

Let’s take a larger number, like 167. 1+6+7=14. 167-14=153. 1+5+3=9.

Flansburg emphasized that numbers don’t have to be scary, and anyone can master them with a little practice… and the number nine.

6th PGA Jr. League Championship presented by National Car Rental Kicks Off Fri., Nov. 17

Beginning Friday, Nov. 17, the eight Regional Champions will compete in round-robin, nine-hole matches that utilize the two-person scramble format. Captains are allowed to substitute players every three holes, so that all team members can participate. First-place teams in each division will play for the national title on Sunday, Nov. 19.

Through PGA Jr. League, kids from all backgrounds learn the game in a fun and engaging team setting, receiving expert instruction from PGA and LPGA Professionals. Players wear numbered jerseys and compete in a two-person scramble format that encourages mentorship and builds confidence. In 2017, a record number of 42,000 boys and girls participated on 3,400 PGA Jr. League teams – surpassing the 36,000 participants on 2,900 teams in 2016.

For complete coverage of the PGA Jr. League Championship presented by National Car Rental, visit To join the conversation about the Championship, #PGAJLG.

Skills Challenge Results

1st — Team (Rickie) Fowler — 640 Points
2nd — Team (Lexi) Thompson — 549 Points
3rd — Team (Rory) McIlroy — 414 Points
4th — Team (Michelle) Wie — 358 Points

Team Fowler

Gray Manning Team Arkansas
Nash Johnson Team Arkansas
Howard Shu Team California
Nathan Kong Team California
Richard Yang Team California
Chapman Barnett Team Georgia
Lucas Jinglov Team Georgia
Shaun Cook Team Georgia
Conan Pan Team Illinois
Juney Bai Team Illinois
Alex Landry Team New Hampshire
Evan Desjardins Team New Hampshire
Stephen Ramos Team New Hampshire
Joshua Ryan Team New Jersey
Katie Li Team New Jersey
Nicholas Piesen Team Ohio
Preston Trumpler Team Ohio
Aaron Pounds Team Texas
Finn Burkholder Team Texas
Jack Usner Team Texas