Team California claims 2018 PGA Jr. League Championship

By Hayley Wilson and Michael Abramowitz
Published on
Team California claims 2018 PGA Jr. League Championship

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. —  As the moon rose above Grayhawk Golf Club, Team California (San Diego – Encinitas Ranch Golf Course) went undefeated at the 7th PGA Jr. League Championship presented by National Car Rental, to capture the team’s second crown and the fifth for the Golden State.

California’s Zander Grant, 13, of Rancho Santa Margarita, California, drained a downhill 5 ½-foot putt on Hole No. 9, to clinch the national title over Team Minnesota (Blaine – TPC Twin Cities) 7 ½ to 4 ½. California finished 6-0 in the Championship and Minnesota posted an impressive 5-1-0 clip in its first Championship.

“It felt great,” said Grant. “It was a little scary, because it was straight downhill and sliding to the right. But it felt good, just like the putt I made on Hole No. 6 to win the flag.”

MORE: 2018 PGA Jr. League Championship hub | Day 1 recap | Day 2 recap

This is a familiar feeling for Team California (6-0-0) Captain John Mason, PGA, and Coach Jackie DeWald-Mason. They previously led their team to victory at the 2015 Championship at Disney’s Palm Course in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

“We’ve gotten better and better each month, and this is the culmination of it all,” said Mason. “We’ve been looking forward to this for a long time. And, what a great team Minnesota was.”

The highlight of the match came early when Minnesota's Cash Dragich, 14, of Blaine, made a remarkable chip off the side of a hill from 80-feet out. The ball rolled along the ridge and into the cup for an eye-popping eagle. California answered the bell with a remarkable 30-foot eagle of their own by Ryan Abuan, 14, of Temecula.

California took control with a 5-3 lead after six holes, needing only a point and a half to clinch. They would move the score to 6-4, before Darren Ho, of San Diego, hit a 130-yard approach shot to 5½ feet to set up Grant’s glory.

“That was the dagger,” Mason said. “That was what won it right there.”

The team went into celebration mode, as the customary water bottle shower turned into a race to stay dry down the 18th fairway, as the sun set along the McDowell Mountains.

California team member Jay Leng, Jr., 13, was the sole returning competitor to the current team. His teammate Karen Tsuru was just 10-years-old when her older brother, Daina Tsuru, helped California win the title three years ago. Now, she’s holding the title, too.

“This win means everything,” said Tsuru, 13. “My brother played in 2015, and I wanted to be like him and win. I’m pretty excited to bring the news back to San Diego.”

In the third place match, Team Texas (Montgomery) edged Team Louisiana (Shreveport) 8 ½ to 3 ½. The two-time Championship competitors attributed much of their success this weekend to their chemistry as a team.

“Between Ben [Willman, PGA, Captain] and I, we had a lineup set last night,” said Texas Coach EJ Kim, PGA. “We completely [called an] audible on it. We said the chemistry has been great, so we're just going to go with what we had this morning, and let the kids have fun.”

Team Minnesota, deemed tournament underdogs from the start, battled their way to the top of the Wanamaker Division with a clean 5-0 record in Divisional Play. It was their grit and determination that earned them a spot in the Championship round Monday afternoon. Though they clinched their Championship berth the day before, Minnesota added another win to their belt Monday morning, defeating defending champion Team Georgia 6 ½ to 5 ½.

“We’re really proud of them all,” said Minnesota Captain Jay Norman, PGA. “They played outstanding all week… We’re rookies, so we live and learn.”

Despite coming up short, Minnesota relished the experience.

“This has been amazing,” said Minnesota’s Kathryn VanArragon, 13. “We didn’t know what to expect coming here, it was our first time. It was absolutely incredible.”

On the final day of play, there was a hole-in-one by Team Virginia’s Rylan Shim, 13, who aced the picturesque, 118-yard Par-3 Hole No. 8 with a pitching wedge.

In the morning matchup against Team Delaware that Texas won 8 ½ to 3 ½, Texas’ Finn Burkholder holed out from 140 yards for an eagle.

“I didn’t see it go in, because I’m not tall enough,” said Burkholder. “Everyone went crazy. I didn’t know it went in, but I put my hands up thinking it did.”

While the Woolsey and Camp Fires have not directly impacted the team, Mason remarked during the week that a win could be a shining light in the dark.                                   

“If we can give them something to cheer about and feel good about, it always helps.”

MORE: Connecticut's Keney Park Golf Course selected to host 2019 Junior PGA Championships

Golf Channel to Air PGA Jr. League Highlight Show Dec. 4
Each of the last two years, PGA REACH, Grayhawk Golf Club and National Car Rental have worked together with Golf Channel to air a two-hour, primetime special highlighting the event. This year’s show will debut on Dec. 4, airing at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT and 12:30 a.m. ET/9:30 p.m. PT. 

Scoring, stories and updates can be found here.

 Ryder Division Standings (FINAL)

**California (San Diego): 6-0-0 Record, 49.5 Points
**Louisiana (Shreveport): 3-2-1 Record, 36 Points
Virginia (Dulles): 2-1-2 Record, 33.5 Points
Ohio (Columbia Station): 2-2-1 Record, 33 Points
Washington (Bellingham): 1-4-0 Record, 22 Points
Connecticut (Harwinton): 0-5-0 Record, 17 Points

*Won Championship and Division Title
**Finished in 4th place overall

Wanamaker Division Standings (FINAL)

#Minnesota (Blaine): 5-1-0 Record, 42.5 Points
##Texas (Montgomery): 5-1-0 Record, 47 Points
Georgia (Duluth): 2-2-1 Record, 35 Points
Illinois (Lemont): 2-2-1 Record, 29.5 Points
Delaware (Wilmington): 0-4-1 Record, 21 Points
Arkansas (Hot Springs): 0-4-1 Record, 18 Points

#Finished in 2nd Place overall/Won Division Title
##Finished in 3rd Place overall

SHOP: 18 gifts to get the golfer in your life this holiday season

Golden State Warriors All-Star and two-time NBA MVP Steph Curry and Olympic Gold Medalist and FIFA Women’s World Cup Champion Alex Morgan were just named the newest PGA Jr. League Ambassadors. They join Ambassadors Rory McIlroy, Michelle Wie, Rickie Fowler and Lexi Thompson, all of whom are committed to grow youth golf.
For a video of the announcement of Steph Curry and Alex Morgan becoming PGA Jr. League Ambassadors, please click here.
The off-course star of the show is PGA Jr. League golfer Warren Fisher, 11, of Riverton, Utah. Fisher has been an onsite correspondent and cub reporter for social media and Golf Channel reports. The suave and debonair son of PGA Professional Annie Fisher, Warren serves as a junior ambassador for PGA Jr. League, with his fun and hilarious updates from the Championship. Fisher regularly hosts "The Warren Report" for the Utah PGA Section. He dreams of being the next David Feherty as an on-air sportscaster. He also talks about becoming President of the United States one day. His political goals are why he regularly wears a bow tie and is dressed to the nines in a tailored suit.
Presenting Partner National Car Rental hosted a fun and relaxing reception at Topgolf Saturday night that was open to all Championship players and their families.
Below are PGA Jr. League Championship presented by National Car Rental yearly results:
Year Champion Score Host Facility/Location
2018 California (San Diego)    7 ½ to 4 ½  Grayhawk Golf Club (Scottsdale, Ariz.)
2017 Georgia (Duluth)    6 ½ to 5 ½    Grayhawk Golf Club (Scottsdale, Ariz.)
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.)
Darren Ho, 11, Spring Valley
James Whitworth, 14, Carlsbad
Jasmine Kahler, 13, Carlsbad
Jay Leng, Jr., 13, La Jolla
Karen Tsuru, 13, Carlsbad
Matthew Broder, 14, San Diego
Nathan Moore, 13, San Marcos
Phillip Kench, 14, Del Mar
Ryan Abuan, 14, Temecula
Zander Grant, 13, Rancho Santa Margarita
Andrew Ramos, 12, Blaine
Benjamin Solum, 14, Blaine
Carter Spalding, 13, Woodbury
Cash Dragich, 14, Blaine
Jake Birdwell, 12, Blaine
Justin Luan, 13, Woodbury
Kathryn VanArragon, 13, Blaine
Nathan Appelhof, 13, Blaine
Parker Sands, 13, Woodbury
Sam Udovich, 11, Inver Grove Heights