Category - Amateur Programs
Team Florida Leads After Day One of the 2023 17u National Car Rental PGA Jr. League Championship
Team Florida (Orlando) is leading the field after a remarkable 28-under-par performance on day one of the inaugural 17u National Car Rental PGA Jr. League Championship at New Mexico’s Twin Warriors Golf Club.
This marks the first year for the 17u Championship. In total, 12 All-Star teams totaling 72 junior golfers are vying for the chance to make history at Twin Warriors this weekend. Located in the high desert, Twin Warriors, framed by the banks of the Rio Grande and offering spectacular views of the Sandia Mountains, features championship-level golf routed around 20 ancient cultural sites.
Rounds one and two (Nov. 17-18)) are played in a team aggregate, stroke play scramble, counting the top two of three scores per nine holes. Sunday’s Semifinals and Championship matches will be conducted in a match play format.
Team Virginia (Dulles) is in second just four shots behind the leader, while Team New York (Farmington) and Team Illinois (Lemont) rounded out the top four at 23- and 22-under-par, respectively.
Team Florida Head Coach Cori McAuliffe, LPGA, says there’s still a lot of golf to play but she’s incredibly proud of her team’s Day One performance.
“We had a really strong start today,” she said. “There’s still a lot of golf to play yet, but I feel really confident about the way our team played. We’re grateful for the opportunity to compete against some of the best PGA Jr. League golfers in the nation.”
Chase Croft, 15, and Aaron Dewitt, 16, of Team Florida, enjoyed the challenge of the Championship-level course.
“We’re from Florida so playing this amazing golf course—it’s a lot different from Florida,” Croft said. “The greens are challenging, the atmosphere is great and there’s definitely some pressure that will go on for the rest of the week. It’s great to have a team, and my partner and I got through it together.”
Led by PGA of America Golf Professional Scott Holmes, Team Virginia used a hot start to propel the team through all 18 holes.
“My first pairing got on a really hot streak on the front nine, and it was really fun to watch,” Holmes said. “The rest of my team is just solid and they did what they’ve done all year long. Hopefully, they can keep it up tomorrow.”
Benjamin Baker, 15, and his partner, Samuel Han, 14, made five birdies in their first nine and back-to-back eagles on Hole Nos. 7 and 8.
“Chipping in on a hole for eagle, that was good,” Baker said. “Today, our team was loose and just trying to have fun and not put a lot of pressure on ourselves, and I feel like that allowed us to play to the best of our ability.”
For Team New York, Joseph Dolezal, 16, and his partner, Mark Yan, 17, finished the day 13-under-par. Birdies made all the difference for the pair, who made six birdies in a row in their second nine. While he enjoys the competition, Dolezal says what he loves most about PGA Jr. League is his team.
“Mostly every event we play as juniors is individual,” he said, “so, it’s great to have a couple of teammates to look after you and have our backs all together.”
That team aspect and the friendships her players have cultivated made today’s performance even sweeter, said Team New York Coach Kelley Brooke, LPGA.
“We’re all from the same area, and our players are all friends, so they’re really close,” she said “Good friendships on the team help!”
PGA of America Golf Professional Kevin Weeks, who coaches Team Illinois, saw his team battle back from a slow start to garner a place in the top four after the first day of competition.
“They didn’t start out great today, but they stuck with their process and just kept working and getting better,” he said. “They played well. Some of the groups had putts fall, and some didn’t. And the ones that didn’t, I’ve already heard them talking, and they know they’ll fall tomorrow.”
The second day of competition begins Nov. 18 at 9:00 a.m. MT, and groups and starting times will be available here. On the remainder of the leaderboard, Team Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh) sits in fifth at 20-under-par; Team Utah (South Jordan) is in sixth with 19-under-par; Team North Carolina (Clemmons), Team California (San Jose) and Team Kansas (Kansas City) are tied for seventh at 16-under-par; Team Minnesota (Blaine) and Team Texas (Farmer’s Branch) are tied for 10th with 15-under-par; and Team Kentucky is in 12th at 7-under-par.
The top four teams following Nov. 18’s competition will advance to the morning Semifinals on Nov. 19 for the right to play in the Championship Match that afternoon. The two teams that do not make the finals will compete for third place.