Team Illinois & Team North Carolina Lead the Pack After Day One at National Car Rental PGA Jr. League Championship
Davis Wotnosky of Team North Carolina hits his shot on the 18th hole during the first round of the 2022 National Car Rental PGA Jr. League Championship at Grayhawk Golf Club on October 7, 2022 in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo by Darren Carroll/PGA of America)
At a blazing 25-under par, Team Illinois (Lemont) and Team North Carolina (Charlotte) are tied at the top of the leaderboard after Friday’s opening round of the 2022 National Car Rental PGA Jr. League Championship.
Twelve teams are battling for the national title at Scottsdale’s picturesque Grayhawk Golf Club, which has hosted the event since 2016. Live coverage on ESPN’s family of networks began today, with coverage continuing through Sunday.
The first two days are played in a team aggregate, stroke-play scramble, with Sunday’s semifinals and Championship matches conducted in a modified match-play format.
2015 and 2018 Champion Team California (Encinitas) ended the day one shot off the pace at 24-under-par. Sitting three shots back at 21-under par is Team Florida (Orlando), with 2021 Champion Team Utah (Lehi) in 5th place at 20-under par.
Utah has enjoyed the company of PGA Tour and U.S. Ryder Cup star Tony Finau, whose son, 10-year-old Jraice, and cousin Jordan Ofahengaue, 12, are playing on the team.
Team Illinois partners Sam Carraher, 13, from Crown Point, and Ben Patel, 12, from North Aurora, shot a combined seven-under par for the day.
Patel, who recently qualified for the Drive, Chip & Putt National Finals at Augusta National Golf Club, was relieved to rely on a teammate.
“I’m not as nervous because I have a partner here,” said Patel. “If I hit a bad one, he usually hits a good one.”
Representing Cog Hill Golf & Country Club, Team Illinois’ lights-out performance may have been broadcast for the entire nation to see, but first place was news to Coach Kevin Weeks, PGA.
“Where are we? I haven’t even looked at the scoreboard yet,” said Weeks when asked about his team’s standing.
Weeks’ team reflected his focused mindset.
“They stuck with the process, and not one time asked me if anyone else was playing good or where they stood,” he continued. “It’s a fun group. They work hard, they enjoy themselves, they enjoy each other, and it feels good. If we’re on top, I’m proud of them and the job they did to get there.”
Similarly, Team North Carolina Assistant Coach Mike Abate, PGA, noted his team’s performance started to pick up in the second half of the day.
“We got off to a slow start, but once they started to trust their swings, seeing a couple putts roll in, it came back to them naturally,” said Abate. “It's what we have been doing all year long… proud of our team, and we will take that number today.”
North Carolina teammates Grayson Baucom, 12, from Hickory, and Graden Lomax, 13, from China Grove, finished at eight-under par for the day.
“We turned it around on the back nine,” said Lomax. “We started off really hot. We made two pars on some tough holes, and then we finished with five birdies… we kept it going and finished strong.”
Thanks in part to an impressive 12 birdies on the scorecard of 13-year-old playing partners Anna Fang, from San Diego, and Kaden Chang, from Carlsbad, Team California also had a strong showing.
Fang is no stranger to the national stage, having competed in the 2022 U.S. Women’s Amateur at Chambers Bay Golf Club, where she qualified for match play and won her first match.
Despite getting off to a flying start, Fang had some opening-day butterflies on Friday.
“Oh, it was pretty nerve-racking,” Fang said. “We really needed to play well for the team. I think Kaden and I were pretty even today. We both played solid golf.”
Yet, even with the National Car Rental PGA Jr. League title on the line this weekend, the teams still will find a way to unwind.
“We will do a little work—very little—and then I’ll send them to the pool,” said Weeks. “Let them go have fun. Have a milkshake and hit the pool. This is PGA Jr. League; it is a competition, but it also should be about having fun and enjoying themselves.”
That's the way it rolls at the happiest major in golf.
Day 1 Standings
T1: Team North Carolina (Charlotte), -25 T1: Team Illinois (Lemont), -25 3: Team California (Encinitas), -24 4: Team Florida (Orlando), -21 5: Team Utah (Lehi), -20 6: Team Texas (Farmers Branch), -19 T7: Team Minnesota (Blaine), -16 T7: Team Oklahoma (Broken Arrow), -16 9: Team New Jersey (Haworth), -13 10: Team Pennsylvania (West Mifflin), -10 11: Team New York (Saratoga Springs), -9 12: Team Connecticut (Torrington), -8
The second day of competition begins tomorrow at 7:30 a.m. MT, with the final group teeing off at 9:20 a.m. MT. For groups and starting times, click here.
The top four teams following Saturday’s competition will advance to the Semifinals on Sunday morning for the right to play in the Championship Match on Sunday afternoon. The two teams that do not make the Finals will play in the 3rd place match.
ESPN on-air talent features PGA Honorary President Suzy Whaley, PGA; Michael Collins; Andy North, PGA; and Taylor Zarzour.
Saturday, Oct. 8 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. ET – ESPNews 3:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m. ET – ESPN+
Sunday, Oct. 9 4-6 p.m. ET – ESPNU 9-11 p.m. ET (encore of Sunday) – ESPN2
NEWS & NOTES
A STELLAR DISPLAY OF SKILL…
The Championship kicked off with the Skills Challenge Thursday (Oct. 6), during which players rotated through fun stations involving both golf and non-golf activities. Winners included:
Team Illinois – Skills Challenge Champions
Davis Wotnosky, Team North Carolina – Boys Square Tees Longest Drive – 290 Yards
Hayden Knapp, Team New York – Girls Circle Tees Longest Drive – 227 Yards
Porter Hart, Team Oklahoma – Boys Circle Tees Longest Drive – 241 Yards
Evyn Cannon, Team Oklahoma – Highlight Award – Closest to the Hole Station Performance
WITH A SURPRISE PANEL OF STARS
Special guests at the National Car Rental Welcome Party on Thursday (Oct. 6) included a panel moderated by ESPN’s Michael Collins and CBS’ Colt Knost with Team Utah dad and two-time U.S. Ryder Cup member Tony Finau; PGA Jr. League Ambassador and 2014 U.S. Women’s Open Champion Michelle Wie West; and World Amateur No. 1 and 2022 NCAA Division I Champion Rose Zhang.
EXPLORING A FUTURE IN GOLF
Tomorrow (Saturday, Oct. 8), from 10:00 a.m. - 1:30 p.m., high school and college-aged attendees will experience an inside look at the various career opportunities within the golf industry. Attendees will be taken on a personalized tour of the event and have an opportunity to meet key individuals involved in the Championship along the way.