Author: jstewart

JTNC Alum Noah Norton at the U.S. Open

It didn’t go exactly the way he wanted it to. Still, Junior Tour of Northern California alum Noah Norton was doing something over 9,000 players had hoped to do—play in this week’s U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links.

Norton, a native of Chico, opened with a disappointing 9-over 80 in Thursday’s first round.

But he was still competing. Approximately 9,100 players entered qualifying for the championship. Only 15 amateurs made it into the 156-man field. Norton being one of them.

“It’s tough. It beat me up,” said Norton, who still managed to sneak in a bit of a smile. “It was a good learning experience. I know what I have to work on.”

While it’s not the equivalent of a U.S. Open, Norton has been in a pressure cooker before. In 2016, he reached the finals of the California Amateur at Olympic Club before losing to P.J. Samiere.

“You want to learn from each of your experiences. It’s all preparation, about getting better and better,” Norton said. “I just played poorly.”

Norton can fall back on some strong support. As it was at the Cal Am, he again has a strong contingent of family and friends rooting him on, including his mom and dad.

“There’s so many friends here I can’t even count,” Norton said. “Playing Pebble in the U.S. Open. It doesn’t get any better than this.”

Qualifying Series for NCGA Junior Championship Returns

Qualifying Series for NCGA Junior Championship Returns

February 21, 2019

An alternative route for players to earn a spot into the prestigious NCGA Junior Championship is back in 2019.

As was the case last year, the entire Spring Series will count as a qualifying series. What that means is that, for every Spring Series championship (Spring I-Spring VII), the top three finishers inside the Top 10 who are not already exempt into the NCGA Junior Championship will earn an exemption.

“Its an exciting way to get more of our best players into the NCGA Junior Championship,” said JTNC Director Aaron Hartesveldt.

Players will be notified if they have earned a spot in the NCGA Junior following the conclusion of each Spring Series event. The Spring Series starts with the Spring Series I at Stockton Country Club and Elkhorn Golf Club (March 16-17).

This year’s 90th NCGA Junior Championship will be held at Green Hills CC in Millbrae.

Last year’s NCGA Junior champs were Ryan Meyer and Gia Feliciano.

Yealimi Noh Turns Professional

Yealimi Noh Turns Professional

February 13, 2019

Concord resident and former JTNC star Yealimi Noh has made it official. She has turned professional.

Noh, the winner of last year’s U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship at Poppy Hils GC, announced the move via social media. Among Noh’s accomplishments on the JTNC are 19 wins, second only to all-time leader Sabrina Iqbal (26). Noh also has the third most JTNC victories in a season (five), which she accomplished during the 2016-2017 campaign.

Excited for this new journey as a professional golfer. ⛳🏆 — Yealimi Noh (@YealimiNoh) February 13, 2019

Ron Kroichick of the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Erik Stone, Noh’s Alameda-based coach, said she already has played at least one event on the Korean LPGA Tour and another on the Cactus Tour in Arizona. Noh tied for eighth in the tournament in Litchfield Park, Ariz., on Feb. 4-6.

-NCGA Staff

Challenge Cup Set to Return to Poppy Hills Jan. 3-4

November 19, 2018

Challenge Cup Set to Return to Poppy Hills Jan. 3-4

The best of Northern California are set to take on the best of Southern California again.

Come Jan. 3-4, the fourth annual Challenge Cup will return to Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach. The Cup features 12 members (eight boys, four girls) of the CIG-sponsored Junior Tour of Northern California taking on 12 players from the Southern California Junior Tour in a Ryder Cup-like format.

Last year, the JTNC took a 2-1 lead in the series with a dominating 17-7 victory.

But there’s much more to the Cup than just the regional rivalry. For the juniors, the Cup provides a rare opportunity to compete not only in a team format but also in match play.

The 2017 JTNC and SoCal teams

“I like that it’s a team format. Everything else I play in is an individual tournament so it’s a new experience,” said Mika Jin at the 2017 event. “It’s fun too to get to meet the players from SoCal. It’s fun to compare your games.”

The Cup also has become a scouting hot spot for coaches from collegiate programs such as UCLA, University of Oregon, Cal, Stanford and New Mexico State.

Play on Thursday, Jan.3 will consist of nine holes of Foursomes and nine holes of Four-Ball. Friday’s (Jan. 4) action will feature the Singles matches.

The four girls who’ll tee it up for the JTNC are:

Mika Jin—A returner from 2017, Jin is a two-time winner this season (Fall Series VI and IX Championships)

Danielle Suh—Like Jin, Suh is a two-time champion this season, having won the Fall Series I and II titles.

Jasmine Chen—Along with winning the Fall Series III Championship, Chen placed T-3 at the Fall Series IX Championship.

Jacqueline Lucena—A high school senior, Lucena has three Top 10’s, including a victory at the Fall Series VII Championship.


The eight JTNC boys will be:

Dylan McDermott—McDermott has four Top 5’s including victories at the Fall Series II and IV Championships.

Sebastian Iqbal—Iqbal has a win at the Fall Series IX Championship and a runner-up finish at the Fall Series VII Championship.

Lucas Carper—Along with a win at the Fall Series VI Championship, Carper has two-runner-ups (Fall Series IV and IX Championships).

Sam Sommerhauser—Sommerhauser has three runner-up finishes on the season (Fall Series I, II and IV Championships).

Connor Motherway—Motherway has four Top 5 finishes this season, including a win at the Fall Series I Championship.

Caleb Shetler—Shetler won the Fall Series VII Championship and was T-2 at the Fall Series V Championship.

Jackson Koivun—Koivun has placed in the Top 3 twice, at the Fall Series III and VI Championships.

George McNeely—McNeely, who had a breakout season last year, was runner-up at the Fall Series VI Championship.


Southern California PGA Junior Tour Roster


Sherilyn Villanueva-Anaheim

Serena Sepersky – Temecula

Kamille Dimayuga-Buena Park

Jasmine Koo-Cerritos


Clay Seeber-Newport Beach

Guy Clauss-Newport Beach

Joseph Chun-Irvine

Ian Maspat –San Diego

Johnny Walker-Riverside

Lincoln Melcher-Burbank

Caden Fioroni-San Diego

Sebastian Vallejo-Long Beach


JTNC’s Matthew Sutherland, Yena Jang Shine at PURE Insurance Championship

With 16 Junior Tour of Northern California players in the field of 81 juniors at the 2018 PURE Insurance Championship, the odds were pretty good that more than one player from one of the local area’s First Tee chapters would feature among the top finishers in the event.

As Sunday’s final round wound up, two JTNC players were among three who were tied for the lead. JTNC player Matthew Sutherland of Carmichael and La Quinta’s Caroline Wales were already in the clubhouse at 16-under 199 while Roseville’s Yena Jang, from The First Tee of Greater Sacramento, had nine holes left to play—and an opportunity to take the lead.

The 16-year-old high school senior wants to study marine biology in college, but she obviously wasn’t distracted by the marine life and coastal views as she posted two rounds of 68 at Pebble Beach (net best ball with her pro, Duffy Waldorf) Friday and Sunday, and a 63 at Poppy Hills on Saturday.

A key moment in her final round was her birdie on #8, the notorious par-4 that features a second shot over a cliff above the crashing Pacific surf. Her pro partner, Duffy Waldorf, hit a low, hard-running tee shot that ran a little too far, and ended up going over the cliff.

Yena’s tee shot landed in perfect position in the fairway, and she stiffed her approach shot hole-high, about 20 feet left of the center flag.

“I know that when he was in trouble I was just trying to save par, because I didn’t want to go over on my round. They helped me read my line and then it just went in. It was really big. It was cool.”

Coming down the stretch, Jang knew that she was tied with Sutherland and Wales, and she knew what she had to do to pull out the win. Just one birdie or better, in the final stretch (and no bogeys, of course) would have pulled out the win for her. It didn’t happen, but the Roseville youngster was very sanguine about the result:

“I knew, and I tried really hard to make birdie (on 18), but I hit it past, but it’s OK. And then my pro (Duffy Waldorf) wasn’t having the best putting day, either. He had a lot of birdie chances but they weren’t going in. I had a couple of birdie putts that lipped out, I had a sand shot that went into the hole and went back out. Things like that.”

The junior competition came down to a three-way tie, based on final score, and was decided by a scorecard playoff, backwards from 18; that is, the three players’ scores on the 18th hole were compared, and the player with the best cumulative score on the hole would win; if their scores on the hole were identical, their scores on 17 would be evaluated, and so on.

Matthew Sutherland’s net 2-under on 18 put him in first place. Wales and Jang’s finishes came down to their play on the 16th hole over three days, with Wales taking second on the strength of a net 3-under to Jang’s par.

Sutherland, who also plays for the First Tee of Greater Sacramento, knew what the picture was as he and his pro partner, and uncle, Kevin Sutherland, were closing out their round.

“I’ve got to be honest, me and Kevin were talking, we didn’t make birdie on the par-5 fourteenth, and we were thinking we’re going to need to make some birdies coming down the stretch. At that point I think we were tied or one back of the lead. Kevin ended up birdying 15. We made a couple of good pars on 16 and 17, and ended up (parring 18). We put up a low number in the morning and it just held up.”

“The bottom line is, it’s not about who wins out here, it’s about the experience that all these kids and myself have had, and I think that’s probably the most important part about all this.”

Playing the event was a special experience for Sutherland, and especially sharing it with his uncle Kevin, a Sacramento native and Fresno State grad who has played in the PGA Tour and Champions Tour since 1992.

“He was a great partner, he stayed focused, he kept me in line. It’s been one of the best weeks of my life, for sure, whether or not I’m taking home a trophy.”


JTNC Players Have Shined at PURE Insurance Championship

September 26, 2018

Keep an eye on players from the Junior Tour of Northern California at this weekend’s PGA Tour Champions PURE Insurance Championship Impacting The First Tee.

In the Pro-Junior portion of the championship, the JTNC has proven to be a force.

In 2011, then JTNC member Casie Cathrea won the Pro-Junior title with partner Ben Crenshaw. Two years later in 2013, Michelle Xie of Palo Alto won the Pro-Junior playing with Kirk Triplett. Another two years later in 2015, JTNC member Jack Avrit won the title competing with the ‘Prince of Pebble Beach’—record five-time AT&T Pro-Am winner Mark O’Meara (pictured).

Coincidentally, this year Avrit’s younger brother, Owen, will be playing with O’Meara.

There was also Josh McCarthy’s close call at the 2014 First Tee Open. While McCarthy and partner Peter Senior appeared to have the title won, The First Tee of Tucson’s Christopher Meyers pulled off one of the greatest shots on the historic 18th hole at Pebble Beach—by any player, he’d make a double-eagle from 203 yards out—to give him and pro partner Lee Janzen the victory.

When this year’s First Tee Open gets underway Friday at Pebble Beach Golf Links and Poppy Hills Golf Course, a total of 16 JTNC members will have a chance at hoisting a trophy at Pebble Beach. Here’s the 16 who’ll be hoping to hoist the trophy on Sunday.

Angelica Antonio–First Tee of Greater Contra Costa

Owen Avrit–First Tee of Central Coast

William Bensch–First Tee of San Joaquin

Courtney Cervellin–First Tee of Greater Sacramento

Yena Jang–First Tee of Greater Sacramento

Linette Jun–First Tee of Silicon Valley

Calton Kang–First Tee of Silicon Valley

Erica Lam–First Tee of Silicon Valley

Nthenya Maithya–First Tee of Central Valley

Skyer May–First Tee of San Joaquin

Isabelle O’Brien–First Tee of Contra Costa

Hailey Salomone–First Tee of Contra Costa

Matthew Sutherland–First Tee of Greater Sacramento

Dylan Van Ostrand–First Tee of Greater Sacramento

Jack Wright–First Tee of Fresno

Kelly Yu–First Tee of Fresno

Ethan Chung, Yealimi Noh 2017-2018 JTNC Players of the Year

Boys’ Player of the Year

Ethan Chung had one goal in mind all season—win Player of the Year honors.

The 16-year-old did it in dramatic fashion, showing off his determination along the way.

Entering the season-ending Tour Championship, Chung needed at least a Top 10 finish to pass Alamo’s Ryan Grauman in the standings. To make things  more intriguing, Chung, who formerly lived in Cupertino, had since moved to Murrieta, about an hour north of San Diego.

He’d make the trip to Poppy Hills for the championship, placing ninth. By virtue of his finish, he’d end the season with 1,995 points, eclipsing Grauman by just two points in what was the closest Player of the Year race in JTNC history. Grauman took second at 1,993, with Saratoga’s Caleb Shetler placing third at 1,448.

“Winning Player of the Year was my goal the entire season,” Chung said. “When I knew I still had a chance at it I wanted to come back and play.”

During the season, Chung had three wins (Fall Series VI, Fall Series VIII, Spring Series III championships) along with three runner-ups and a third place finish.

His victory at the Fall Series VI was his first on the JTNC circuit.

“Once I got that first win it was a sigh of relief,” Chung said. “I was confident after that. Winning Player of the Year is such an honor.”


Girls’ Player of the Year

Concord resident Yealimi Noh was already in the mix for the Player of the Year honors.

Then, the Summer of Yealimi happened.

Noh, 17, caught fire late in the season, winning both the California Junior Girls’ State Championship and the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship at Poppy Hills—along with just about everything else—to earn her first Girls’ Player of the Year title with a total of 2,600 points.

Finishing in second place was Mika Jin of Fremont at 2,303. Danielle Suh of San Ramon was third at 2,058, while record four-time Player of the Year Sabrina Iqbal (who’s now playing at Texas Christian University) was fourth at 2,046.

“It means a lot to finally get Player of the Year,” Noh said.  “I’ve come in second many times so it feels great. I’ve lost count of how many NCGA, JTNC  events I’ve played and they have really improved my game and got me to where I am today.”

Other wins for Noh, who’s home-schooled and is eyeing turning pro in late 2019, came at the Fall Series IV, Fall Series VII and Summer Series I championships.  She also picked up points for her victory at the PGA Girls Junior, where she set the championship record with a 72-hole score of 24-under 264.

Still eligible for another season on the Junior Tour, Noh’s wins moved her to second place on the all-time JTNC Girls’ NorCal majors win list. She’s now at 19 wins, having passed former standout Casie Cathrea. Iqbal is the all-time leader with 29 victories.



Noh, JTNC Players Advance to U.S. Women’s Amateur

July 3, 2018

Concord resident Yealimi Noh continued her recent hot play, shooting a medalist-earning 4-under 66 in Monday’s U.S. Women’s Open qualifier at par-70 Sequoyah County Club in Oakland.

Coming off her second win at the annual Califonia Junior Girls’ State Championship, Noh, 16, paced the field with seven birdies to go against three bogeys. Her birdies included a three-in-a-row stretch from holes No.5 through No.7.

Overall, nine players advanced to the championship proper, to be held August 6-12 at The Golf Club of Tennessee. Finishing second at 68 was current UC Davis standout Yoonhee Kim.

A number of players who advanced were current or former members of the Junior Tour of Northern California, including Noh and Kim.  Record four-time JTNC Player of the Year Sabrina Iqbal (72) and former CWAC Junior winner Simar Singh (72) also moved on as did Quynn Duong (72).

JTNC’s Caleb Shetler Wins Santa Clara County Championship

June 5, 2018

Caleb Shetler won the Santa Clara County over the weekend, shooting scores of  70-67-66 for a total of 203.

His 203 score tied Justin Suh for the third-lowest winning score in the 92-year history of the tournament. He outlasted a late charge by Steve Woods, who narrowed the lead to one shot going into the final hole after being back four shots midway through the round.  Woods ended up two strokes back at 205.


JTNC’s Ryan Grauman Wins Alameda Commuters

April 25, 2018 

A high school senior won the annual Alameda Commuters Championship.

Ryan Grauman of Danville grabbed the first round lead with a 7-under 64 and never looked back, finishing the 72-hole Championship at 9-under 275 to defeat runner-up Matt Heitel by a stroke.

Headed to St. Mary’s University this fall, Grauman’s second big move came via a final round 67 despite strong winds.

Sebastian Iqbal of San Jose and Brian Ma, winner of the 2017 San Francisco City, finished T-3 at 277.

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