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A Lot Riding at Next Week’s Junior Tour of Northern California Tour Championship

July 27, 2016

What’s been an historic and memorable 2015-2016 Junior Tour of Northern California season culminates Monday and Tuesday with the Tour Championship at Poppy Hills Golf Course.

So who’s going to end up earning Boys’ and Girls’ Player of the Year honors? Well, we’re about to find out.

On the Boys’ front, recent NCGA Junior Championship winner Thomas Hutchison of San Jose will head into the championship leading in the points race at 2,293.

Ryan Grauman of Alamo is at 2,103, 2014 Player of the Year Joshua McCarthy is at 1,991 and Ahmed Ali of Palo Alto is at 1,842.

The JTNC Tour Championship is worth 500 points, so both Grauman and Ali will have a chance to pass Hutchison. McCarthy will not, since he recently turned 19 and is not eligible to compete in anymore events.

In the Girls’ division, meanwhile, it’s down to two familiar names.

Two-time defending champion Sabrina Iqbal of San Jose leads with 4,063 points. In second place is Yoonhee Kim of San Ramon at 3,549.

Again, the Girls’ Tour Championship is worth 500 points, so with a win, it’s possible that Kim could pass Iqbal. A lot in the Girls’ race will, however, also be determined by results from this week’s annual California Women’s Amateur Championship, which concludes on Saturday at Pebble Beach Golf Links.

Should Iqbal finish better than Kim at the CWAC, she’ll more than likely have locked up a record third straight Player of the Year crown. Should Kim play well at the CWAC, the Tour Championship will decide Player of the Year honors.

Junior Tour of Northern California

Sabrina Iqbal

Not surprisingly, there’ll also be more history on the line at the Tour Championship.

With a win, Grauman, Ali or Hutchison would set a JTNC record for most wins in a season (four). The trio all have three wins this season, which tied the previous mark set by Alexander Lee and Joshua McCarthy during the 2013-2014 season.

Over on the Girls’ side, with another win Iqbal would add to her record total (20) for most NorCal Junior Girls’ “major” victories (JTNC wins, CIF High School State Championship, CWAC Junior, NCGA Junior, NCGA/CIF NorCal Championship). Just recently, Iqbal eclipsed the previous record of 18 career wins, held by former junior standout Casie Cathrea.

Others looking to add to their career win totals will be Kim and Concord’s Yealimi Noh, who are both at nine.

Should Kim win, she’d also finish with seven victories this season, which would be the second-most ever. Iqbal set the record for most wins in a season with eight in 2013-2014. An Iqbal victory, meanwhile, would be her fifth of the season—third most all-time.

87th NCGA Junior Championship

July 12, 2016


Overall champion Thomas Hutchison

San Jose residents and schoolmates Thomas Hutchison and Sabrina picked up wins and etched their names into the history books.

Hutchison shot a final round even-par 72 to finish at 5-under 211, and Iqbal had a final round 1-over 73 and defeated Yoonhee Kim in a playoff to capture the Boys’ overall and Girls’ titles, respectively, on Tuesday at the 87th NCGA Junior Championship on the par-72 Old Course at Half Moon Bay Golf Links.

Hutchison, the only Boys’ player to shoot par or better each of the three rounds, joined his older sister Samantha (2013) as a champion of the prestigious event. The two are the only siblings to both win the NCGA Junior in the event’s 87-year history.

“It feels good to have my name on the trophy and have my sister’s name on the other,” said Hutchison, a senior at Pioneer High.


Girls’ champion Sabrina Iqbal, runner-up Yoonhee Kim and third place finisher Amanjoty Sangha (left to right)

Getting his name alongside the likes of former champs Ken Venturi (1949), Johnny Miiler (1963) and Bobby Clampett (1976) was pretty good, too.

“That’s very cool. Having my name with those guys makes me feel confident,” he said.

A day after going 5-under over 36 holes on the Ocean Course, Hutchison again found his groove. He’d post 14 pars to go with a pair of birdies and two bogeys—the key being that he never put himself in trouble. It was only the second time that Hutchison had ever played the Old Course.

“I was making a lot of putts,” said Hutchison, who has already verbally committed to UC Davis, where his sister now plays. “If I did miss a green, I’d knock it close and then make the putt. I just wanted to keep the ball in play and not make any major mistakes.”


Boys’ 16-18 champion Drake Mendenhall, runner-up Finigan Tilly and third place finisher Austin Fox (left to right)

Hutchison’s steady nerves led to a five-shot win over Granite Bay’s Drake Mendenhall, who came in at 216 following a 75 and took the title in the Boys’ 16-18 division. San Carlos resident Finigan Tilly, who had opened the championship with a brilliant 65 on the Ocean Course, was second in the Boys’ 16-18 division at 217 after a 78. Third place went to Folsom’s Austin Fox, who also had a 78, at 218.

While Hutchison’s day was one for the history book, so too was Iqbal’s. With her win, the Pioneer High junior notched her 19th NorCal Junior Girls’ major victory, passing junior sensation Casie Cathrea (18). Iqbal also became the first girl to repeat as NCGA Junior champion since Jamille Jose (1988-1989).

“This one feels good. I knew it was going to be a tough day,” said Iqbal, who only turns 15 next week.

For Iqbal, the tough part was trying to get past pal Yoonhee Kim of San Ramon. Kim, who held a one-shot lead over Iqbal entering the final round, took a one-shot lead to the scenic 18th tee after a clutch birdie on the par-3 17th.


Boys’ 14-15 champion Aaron Chen, runner-up Brian Shaw and third place finisher Michael Shaw (left to right)

On No.18, however, Kim got stuck in a bunker leading to a bogey, while Iqbal managed a par. Tied after regulation at 3-over 147, the duo twice played the par-5 10th hole. After halving with pars the first go-round, the second time Kim’s drive went too far, forcing her to punch out. Kim’s third shot then found the fairway bunker, leading to another lay-up. Iqbal, meanwhile, calmly knock her third shot to within 2 feet of the flagstick for the win.

“When we were on the 18th tee I knew I had to somehow get that one stroke back. I felt that if I could get to extra holes I’d have a chance,” Iqbal said. “I knew I had to bring my ‘A’ game all day. Yoonhee is such a great player.”

On the Junior Tour of Northern California, the two have jostled for the No.1 spot in the race for Girls’ Player of the Year honors all season. Iqbal is the two-time defending JTNC Player of the Year.

“That bunker shot I had on 18, I just sort of chunked it out,” said Kim, who’s headed to UC Davis in the fall. “I love Sabrina. It’s all meant to be. We both played great.”


Boys’ 10-13 champion Drew Kim, runner-up John Heckel and third place finisher Caleb Barstad (left to right)

Both third and fourth place in the Girls’ championship were claimed by the Sangha sisters of San Mateo—Amanjoty and Kiran. Amanjoty was third at 152 following a 76, while Kiran placed fourth at 153 following a 78.

In the Boys’ 14-15 division, Fremont’s Aaron Chen posted a 73 to come in at 216, knocking off runner-up Brian Ma of Milpitas by three strokes. Ma, who had a closing 79, had been in the running for the overall title after carding back-to-back rounds of 70 on the Ocean Course. Third place went to Michael Shaw of Pleasanton at 222 after a 71.

The Boys’ 10-13 division was another close affair, as Drew Kim had a second 76 to finish at 152, defeating runner-up John Heckel of San Jose by one. Heckel, who lead after a 75 on the Ocean Course, slipped back to a 78. Third place went to Caleb Barstad of Carmel Valley at 157 after a 76.

Three JTNC Players Advance to U.S. Girls’ Junior Amateur Championship

Redwood Shores resident Lucy Li and five others are headed to this year’s U.S. Girls’ Junior Amateur Championship at Ridgewood CC in New Jersey.

Li, the darling of the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open, carded a 5-under 67 to earn medalist honors Monday in a qualifier held at par-72 Merced Golf and Country Club. Still only 13 years old, Li posted six birdies with just one bogey. She’d card a 3-under 33 on the back-nine.

Placing second with a 71 was Danville resident Ty Akabane. Akabane recently shot a 66 at the Junior Tour of Northern California Spring Series VII Championship. The 5-under 66 was the third lowest Girls’ score in JTNC history.

Third place went to Concord’s Yealimi Noh, who won the 2014 California Junior Girls’ State Championship, at 72.


Also advancing were Grace Fitzgerald of Poway (76), North Tustin’s Katie Stribling (76) and Kayla Sam of Anaheim Hills (77).

The first alternate spot went to Tiffany Kong of Vancouver at 78. Rocklin’s Nicole Schroeder (78) is the second alternate.

This year’s U.S. Girls’ Junior Amateur Championship will be held July 18-23.

JTNC Alum Justin Suh Headed to Oakmont

June 7, 2016

San Jose resident Justin Suh, who won JTNC Player of the Year honors in 2013 and 2015, is headed to Oakmont Country Club for this year’s U.S Open.

A sophomore at USC, Suh shot back-to-back rounds of 67 to finish at 8-under 134, tied for second at Monday’s U.S. Open Sectional qualifier held at par-71 Olympic Club (Ocean Course) and par-72 Lake Merced Golf Club. He was the lone amateur to grab one of the automatic spots into the U.S. Open.

“It feels really good. I’m sort of speechless,” Suh said. “I’m going to Oakmont. I can’t put it to words.”

A week ago, Suh, who’ll turn 19 on Sunday, held the lead after the second round of the NCAA Championship. He’d finish T-10. In 2015, he won the San Francisco City Championship at TPC Harding Park.

Suh, the only male player to win Junior Tour of Northern California Player of the Year honors twice (2013, 2015),

JTNC’s Peter Kuest Youngest Winner of Alameda Commuters

Championship Results

April 24, 2016

Bryson DeChambeau isn’t the only player out of Clovis who’s making noise.

Peter Kuest, a senior at West Clovis High in DeChambeau’s hometown, capped a sensational showing at the 89th Alameda Commuters Championship Sunday at par-71 Chuck Corica Golf Complex (Earl Fry Course) in Alameda, posting a final round 73 to become the youngest event champion in history.

Kuest, who’s met DeChambeau, flirted with the record 72-hole championship total before coming in at 15-under 269. Jonathan De Los Reyes, a senior at St. Mary’s, tied the tournament record for low score (18-under) en route to cruising to a win in 2014. Former NorCal amateur great and current PGA Tour member Matt Bettencourt first set the mark in 2002.

While he didn’t tie or beat the record, Kuest, both a Youth on Course and Junior Tour of Northern California member, still walked away with an easy four stroke win over the field.

“It’s pretty sweet. I just made a lot of putts the first few rounds,” said Kuest, who did set a championship record with a 36-hole total of 13-under 129. “This is by far my biggest win so far. It means a lot.”

Junior Tour of Northern California

Going against a field full of collegiate players and some former champions such as Rick Reinsberg, it was Kuest who looked like the veteran. A third round 67 gave him a 10 stroke lead over the field entering the finale. It was the first time that Kuest had ever played at Chuck Corica.

“I knew it was a good tournament and would have a challenging field,” Kuest said. “Bryson (DeChambeau) a great role, especially the way he handles himself.”

The only big mistake that Kuest made over his four rounds was a four-putt double-bogey on the par-3 11th on Sunday. The error only dropped his lead heading down the stretch to seven shots.

Andrew Bonner, an Oregon grad who aims to turn pro in 2017, took second at 273 after a stellar 67. Joshua McCarthy, the 2014 JTNC Player of the Year and a friend of Kuest, finished third at 276 after a 69.

Junior Tour of Northern California

“Peter played phenomenal the whole tourney,” McCarthy said. “I wish him the best. I hope he keeps it up.”

Helping Kues, who’s headed to Brigham Young University in the fall, get around the course each day was his caddie and father, Peter Kuest, Sr.

“My back’s a little sore, and I even used a push cart, but Peter played great,” the elder Kuest said with a smile. “The putts just didn’t fall in today.”

The previous youngest Commuters champion was Doug Poole, who won in 1975 also at the age of 17. Kuest even had the edge there, beating Poole by a couple of months.

JTNC’s Ty Griggs a Champion at Augusta National

April 4, 2016

Makes final putt to win at the home of the Masters

Delivering on a clutch putt to win a title at Augusta National?

Manteca’s Ty Griggs has experienced it, and will never forget it.

On Sunday, Griggs, a member of Youth on Course and the Junior Tour of Northern California, sank a 15-footer at the home of the Masters to win the Boys’ 12-13 Division at the annual Drive, Chip and Putt Championships. The 13-year-old only had to have his final putt get within about half a foot for enough points to win the title. Instead, Griggs made it.

“I was shaking, I was nervous, I was emotional,” Griggs told The Golf Channel. “I thought I had to get it to about a half a foot, but that’s tough to do.”

The putt gave Griggs a total of 28 points in the Boys’ 12-13 Division. He’d beat runner-up Skyler Fox of Pennsylvania by a single point. Overall, Griggs tallied 10 points in driving, 9 in chipping and 9 in putting.

Griggs, who only began playing golf six years ago, has some golf history in his family. One of his distant relatives is Francis Ouimet, who famously won the 1913 U.S. Open.

“It’s really one of those magical places that you’ve always seen on TV, but you never end up,” said Griggs, who failed to qualify last year. “And here I am.”

Sofia Young of Benicia, also a member of the JTNC, finished 10th in the Girls’ 14-15 Division with four points. Jayden Lizama of Elk Grove, the only other NorCal competitor, finished 8th in the Boys’ 7-9 with 14 points.

Two JTNC Members Headed to Augusta National for Drive, Chip and Putt Finals

March 30, 2016

Two Junior Tour of Northern California members will tee it up at Augusta National Golf Club prior to the likes of Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy.

Sofia Young of Benicia and Ty Griggs of Manteca will be among 80 juniors who are set to compete in the third annual Drive, Chip and Putt Championship National Finals to be held Sunday, April 2, prior to the start of the Masters.

Young will be playing in the Girls’ 14-15 Division, while Griggs will compete in the Boys’ 12-13 Division. Also representing Northern California will be Jayden Lizama of Elk Grove, who ‘ll be part of the Boys’ 7-9 Division.

Junior Tour of Northern California

Sofia Young

A joint initiative by the Masters Tournament, the United States Golf Association and the PGA of America, the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship is a free nationwide junior competition focusing on the three fundamental skills employed in golf, tapping the creative and competitive spirit of girls and boys, ages 7-15.

Junior Tour of Northern California

Ty Griggs

All championship scoring at the local, sub-regional and regional qualifiers is based on a 25-point-per-shot basis, with each participant taking three shots per skill. Each participant accumulated points per shot in all three skills (maximum of 75 points per skill = 25 points per shot x 3). The overall champion in each age category was determined by the participant with the most points accumulated between all three skills (maximum of 225 points = 75 points per skill x 3).

For each skill, the point system is based in incremental distance measurements, rewarding accuracy and distance in the drive skill, and proximity for chipping and putting skills. Difficulty increases with age.

At Augusta National, one champion will be named from each age/gender division. Each final will be scored based on a 30-point system, offering the player with the longest drive 10 points, the player with the closest cumulative chips 10 points and the player with the nearest cumulative putts 10 points, in each separate skill. The highest total composite score will determine the winner.

JTNC Alums Bryson DeChambeau, Maverick McNealy and The King


Stanford junior Maverick McNealy simply described it as “awesome.” Bryson DeChambeau, meanwhile, called it “a thrill.”

That included not only the golf, but also being around The King.

McNealy, who won last year’s NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship, and DeChambeau, who hails from Clovis, had a weekend to remember playing at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Playing in the same group with Rory McIlroy, DeChambeau carded a final 6-under 66 to finish T-27. In a little less than three weeks, the 22-year-old 2015 U.S. Amateur champion will play in his first Masters.

Bryson DeChambeau Rory McIlroy


“I was pretty darn comfortable out there,” said DeChambeau, the 2011 Junior Tour of Northern California Boys’ Player of the Year. “My first time on the Tour (at the FedEx Cup St. Jude Classic) it was a little nerve-wracking. Rory and I were feeding off of each other. It was great to get that experience. You could see what momentum is. We had a lot of fun out there.”

Also playing via a sponsor’s exemption, the 20-year-old McNealy soaked it up every minute as well.

“I think the biggest thing I need to improve is my driving,” said McNealy, who T-46 thanks in part to an opening 69. “That sets up every shot and it’s incredible how much more difficult it is to play out of the rough on the PGA Tour than it is versus the rough in college. It takes really, really good golf to compete with these guys.”

Of course, the two also got to spend some precious time with The King.

DeChambeau, who plans to turn pro after the Masters, had previously met Palmer briefly at the Walker Cup practice session with Captain ‘Spider’ Miller and the rest of the squad. This time, he got to visit with Palmer in his office.

“That’s a moment I’ll never forget,” DeChambeau said.

Also a former member of the JTNC, McNealy was followed by Palmer over the back-nine on Thursday.

“Playing the back-nine at the Arnold Palmer Invitational with Mr. Palmer watching was the coolest golf experience in my life,” McNealy said. “This is something I’m going to tell my kids and grandkids about.”

Jerry Stewart

JTNC Alum Hannah O’Sullivan Named to Curtis Cup

NCGA member and former Junior Tour of Northern California member Hannah O’Sullivan will be representing the Stars and Stripes at this year’s Curtis Cup.

Recently, O’Sullivan, who lives in Arizona but is a member at the Olympic Club, was among eight players named by the USGA to the 2016 USA Curtis Cup team. Th championship will be held June 10-12 at Dun Laoghaire Golf Club in Enniskerry, Ireland outside Dublin.

Currently the No.2 ranked women’s amateur in the world, O’Sullivan won the 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur by a 3-and-2 margin over Brooks at Portland (Ore.) Golf Club. Earlier in the year, she won the Symetra Tour’s Gateway Classic, becoming the tour’s first amateur winner since Kellee Booth in 1999 and the youngest since Cristie Kerr in 1995.

Junior Tour of Northern California Hannah O'Sullivan

Hannah O’Sullivan with the hardware from last year’s U.S. Women’s Amateur.

Set to become a freshman at USC this fall, O’Sullivan also earned victories in the 2015 Rolex Girls Junior Championship and 2015 Rolex Tournament of Champions. She’d partner with Robynn Ree to finish runner-up to Liu and Rinko Mitsunaga in the 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball at Bandon Dunes, and she finished tied for 53rd in the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open at Lancaster (Pa.) Country Club.

Joining O’Sullivan on the USA squad will be:

  • Sierra Brooks, 17, of Sorrento, Fla.
  • Mariel Galdiano, 17, of Pearl City, Hawaii
  • Andrea Lee, 17, of Hermosa Beach, Calif.
  • Mika Liu, 17, of Beverly Hills, Calif.
  • Hannah O’Sullivan, 17, of Chandler, Ariz.
  • Bailey Tardy, 19, of Peachtree Corners, Ga.
  • Monica Vaughn, 21, of Reedsport, Ore.
  • Bethany Wu, 19, of Diamond Bar, Calif.

The Curtis Cup Match is a biennial international women’s amateur golf competition between eight-player teams from the United States of America and Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I). It consists of six foursomes (alternate-shot) matches, six four-ball matches and eight singles matches over three days of competition.

Robin Burke, the 1997 U.S. Women’s Amateur runner-up and a member of the victorious 1998 USA Curtis Cup Team, will serve as USA captain.


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