Category - Amateur Programs
Team Texas Wins 2023 13u National Car Rental PGA Jr. League Championship
By Hayley Wilson
Team Texas turned hometown heroes with its victory at the 2023 13u National Car Rental PGA Jr. League Championship today.
With the sun setting and ESPN cameras rolling, No. 2 seed Team Texas (Farmers Branch) defeated No. 4 seed Team Utah (Lehi) 6.5 - 5.5 in the match play Championship final at PGA Frisco’s Fields Ranch West.
Not only is it the first time a Texas team has hoisted the trophy; it’s also the first time the Championship has been held in the Lone Star State and at the Home of the PGA of America, no less. The 2023 Champions are based out of Brookhaven Country Club in the northern Dallas suburb of Farmers Branch.
“It’s our Super Bowl,” said Team Texas Coach and Brookhaven Country Club Lead Teaching Professional Joey Anders, PGA, to ESPN’s Michael Collins and PGA of America Vice President Don Rea, PGA, as the trophy was presented on the 18th green. “It’s as good as it gets for us. We’re extremely happy. I couldn’t be prouder of this team.”
No one could have asked for a closer match. The teams went wire-to-wire, with the title coming down to the last match, on the last hole, between Team Utah’s Jordan Ofahengaue and Blake Brown, both 13, and Team Texas’s Chase Roman, 13, and Lincoln Rubis, 11.
“Chase hit a good drive,” said Rubis of his teammate on the winning hole. “He set me up so I could go at it. I smoked it. It went really far. I got to the green and I hit it to like, 35 feet. Chase hit it a little bit long, but Chase hit a good putt and set me up. I lagged it up there to two feet and Chase tapped it in for the win.”
“That putt, I knew I had to get it close to finish it,” said Roman of clinching the win. “When I tapped it in, it was the best feeling in the world, especially because it was my last one. I’m at the age limit so I’ll definitely do the older division, but just to finish it out on the last hole was the greatest.”
Roman’s timing couldn’t be better. The inaugural 17u National Car Rental PGA Jr. League Championship is set for Nov. 16-19 at Twin Warriors Golf Club in Santa Ana Pueblo, New Mexico, so he has a whole year to prepare for another Championship trip. Until then… someone else is going to Disney World.
“It’s funny because my Assistant Coach April [Pyle] is actually going to Disney World right now,” said Anders. “I’ve got to give her a ride to the hotel so she can get on a plane as quickly as she can because her family is there. I have no idea how the rest of this [celebrating] is going to happen, but we’re going to enjoy the moment.”
2021 Champion Team Utah needed an eagle on the final hole to force a playoff and another shot at the title. They couldn’t get there, but that didn’t stop Coach Tele Wightman, PGA, from beaming about his team.
“You know, I'm just so proud of the boys,” said Wightman, PGA Director of Golf at Thanksgiving Point Golf Club. “They competed all week and it was a great win against Florida today. They made the shots when they had to, we knew Texas would be tough and it was tight all the way, you know. They just made one more putt than we did. So, hats off to Texas. I'm proud of our kids.”
The Finaus blended in with the crowd of families proudly watching their kids’ teamwork on display.
“I’m just a spectator, just a father,” said Jraice’s dad and six-time PGA Tour winner Tony Finau to Michael Collins’ on the ESPN2 broadcast, just before their final hole. “He got three flags for his team today. Hopefully it’s enough to get them into a playoff, but if not, I had a great time following my son.”
The morning Semifinals that set up the afternoon showdown featured some close calls, too. No. 2 seed Team Texas defeated No. 3 seed Team Illinois (Lemont) 7.5 - 4.5, while No. 4 seed Team Utah edged No. 1 seed Team Florida (Orlando) after a 6 - 6 end to their match. The number of holes won was calculated as the tiebreaker, and Team Utah won 9 - 8 to move forward in their battle with Team Texas.
In the afternoon consolation match, Team Florida defeated Team Illinois 7.5 - 4.5 to take home third.
“We got off to a slow start, so we were fighting back, but they played fantastic and unfortunately lost in the scorecard playoff,” said Team Florida Coach Cori McAuliffe, LPGA, of Marriott Golf Academy. “We've been on this end now two years in a row and it stings, but we'll just try to keep coming back and hopefully we come back stronger.”
As for the reminder of the field, Team South Carolina (Spartanburg) took fifth; Team Oklahoma (Broken Arrow) finished in sixth; Team California (San Jose) finished seventh; Team Virginia (Dulles) eighth; Team Minnesota (Blaine) ninth; Team Ohio (Dublin) 10th; Team Connecticut (Torrington) 11th; and Team New York (Saratoga Springs) 12th.
The eight teams not competing in the Semifinals had the option to participate in the Fields Ranch Roundup, a 9-hole, two-person scramble. The Fields Ranch Roundup was captured by 13-year-old duo Christopher Crawford and Kaden Leivian of Team Oklahoma.