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5th Annual Challenge Cup


January 4, 2020

The Junior Tour of Northern California won the Cup and took the lead in the overall series. All in thrilling fashion.

The JTNC’s Madelyn Gamble won her Singles match, 1-up, thanks to a par on the closing par-5 18th hole at Poppy Hills, helping the JTNC emerge with a 12 1/2- 11 1/2 victory over the PGA Southern California Junior Tour in what was the fifth edition of the Challenge Cup.  It was the first time the Cup matches were decided in the last group of Singles play.

The Challenge Cup is a two-day competition featuring 12 of the best JTNC players (eight boys, four girls) taking on 12 of the best from the PGA Southern California Junior Tour in a Ryder-Cup like format.

“This was the best Challenge Cup yet,” said JTNC Director Aaron Hartesveldt. “What a great finish.”

At the conclusion of Friday’s opening rounds of play–Four-Ball and Foursomes–the two squads were tied 6-6, setting the stage for an exciting Singles matches finish. It lived up to the billing.

Neither team held more than a two-point advantage during play.

The big difference would be the JTNC eventually winning five of the last six Singles matches, including Gamble’s. Other winners were Jackson Koivun (5 and 4), Dylan McDermott (4 and 3), Andrea Gomez (2 and 1) and Kiara Romero (5 and 4). Other members of Team JTNC were Ryan Meyer, Sam Sommerhauser, Ben Soicher, Baron Szeto, Zachery Pollo, Paramdeep Sodhi and Vani Karimanal.

Held each winter, the event has become a favorite of the players due to its format.

“It’s awesome,” Meyer said. “The whole team atmosphere, we don’t get that very often. Plus, you get to play with your friends and some of the best players around. It’s really cool.”

Participants are selected based on their performance during the Tour’s Fall Series.

The Cup has also become a hotbed for college coaches looking for talent. Among the schools in attendance were USC, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Pepperdine and Loyola-Marymount.

Both teams entered this year’s Cup matches tied at two wins apiece.

Photo Gallery



January 3, 2020

Neither team broke away after day one of the fifth annual Challenge Cup at Poppy Hills Golf Course.

Both the JTNC and PGA Southern California Junior Tour finished Friday’s opening rounds of Four-Ball and Foursomes tied at six points apiece.

The Challenge Cup is a two-day competition featuring 12 of the best JTNC players (eight boys, four girls) taking on 12 of the best from the PGA Southern California Junior Tour in a Ryder-Cup like format.

Ironically, the two squads entered this year’s match tied at two wins. Everything will come down to Saturday’s 12 Singles matches.

On what was a spectacular day at Poppy Hills, the PGA Southern California Junior Tour jumped out to a 4-2 lead in morning Four-Ball action.

Helping build the lead were a pair of wins by the tandems of Kylee Choi and Jasmine Koo (3 and 2) and the tandems of Timothy Jung and Greyson Leach (3 and 2) and Patrick Hong and Hogan Park (3 and 2).

The JTNC kept things close by getting a point apiece via wins by the teams of Baron Szeto and Jackson Koivun (1-up) and Paramdeep Sodhi and Dylan McDermott (2 and 1).

The JTNC managed to flip the script and tie things up by winning the afternoon Foursomes matches, 4-2.

Getting victories for the JTNC were the tandems of Vani Karimanal and Kiara Romero (2-up), Baron Szeto and Jackson Koivun (2-up) and Zachery Pollo and Sam Sommerhauser (3 and 2).

Getting halves for the JTNC were the tandems of Ryan Meyer and Ben Soicher and Paramdeep Sodhi and Dylan McDermott.

The Socal’ers got a win from the team of Jordyn Parr and Nicole Neal (2 and 1) to keep the total score knotted at six.

The Singles matches will begin at 8 a.m.

Photo Gallery 

What Junior Golfers Really Think About the College Recruiting Process

At the 2018 National Golf Coaches Convention in Las Vegas, I spent a lot of speaking to coaches about the recruiting process. Based on the feedback, I decided to do something a little different; look at the recruitment process from the perspective of the junior golfer. With the feedback I collected I created a 10-question survey with some interesting questions. Then with the help of the Junior Tour of Northern California (THANK YOU!), collected response from 57 junior golfers. Here are the questions and what I found:

Q1: What percent more would a mid-major school have to offer you for you to turn down an offer from a major conference school like UCLA, Stanford or University of Florida?

Average Answer: 62 percent

Q2: How many times does a coach have to watch you play 9 holes for you to feel like they are REALLY interested?

Average Answer: 8

Q3: How many college teams do you follow on social media?

Average Answer: 7

Q4: Would you commit to a school without meeting the coaches or team and touring the facilities?

Answer: 16 percent – YES  84 percent – NO

Q5: Would you prefer: A better coach, a better facility or a better team travel schedule?


58 percent: better Coach
25 percent: Better Facility
17 percent: Better Travel Schedule

Q6: Would you pay to attend a one-day camp to interact with a coach of a school you are interested in?

82 percent – Yes
18 percent – No

Q7: What is the perfect age to make a commitment to play college golf?

Average Answer: 16 years old

We also asked players, what do you like most to see on social media from a college team? Since the question was qualitative, we got a range of answers but, in general, respondents wanted to see the team having fun/bonding/what the players are about, as well as the scores of the players (both in qualifying and tournaments).

Obviously, the average responses don’t necessarily tell the whole story. When looking closer at the numbers for example, I found that:

  • 70 percent of players indicated that if a coach watches them 2-4 times, they know they are very interested
  • 10 percent of players expected a coach to watch them 10 or more times to be very interested
  • 30 percent of players follow 1 or less team on social media while only 10% follow more than 25

For me, the most notable take-aways from the survey were the fact that junior golfers put the biggest priority on the coach, over facilities and scheduling by a significant margin. While building facilities are important, Athletic Directors should balance the investment in facilities with bigger investments in coaches.

It was also shocking that 14 percent of junior golfers would commit to a school without visiting the campus? Speaking to coaches at the convention, our guesses were that this number would be very close to zero, however clearly, I was wrong.

Let’s hear from you, what are the questions you want to see in the next survey? Any of the results from this survey shock you? Please comment below!

Does being a First Team All-American in the AJGA predict professional success?

Does being a First Team American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) All-American predict success in professional golf? We decided to crunch the numbers and share our results!

Examining results from 1978 to 2008, we found that 237 different players earned the honor of being named an AJGA First Team All-American, with 42 individuals earning the honor on multiple occasions. Of the 237, a whopping 46 or approximately 20 percent of them, went on to win on the PGA Tour, with 10 of them, or approximately 4 percent, winning major championships.

However, when looking at players who were multiple year AJGA All-Americans, the number skyrockets. Of the 42 individuals who earned this honor, 20 went on to win on the PGA Tour. An incredible 47.6 percent. Fjve of the 42 (or 12 percent) went on to win major championships.

According to research from junior golf expert Henry Brunton, each birth year can expect to have approximately 10 players become career PGA Tour players, with seven of these being born in the United States. Each year approximately 125 million people are born, so in general your odds of being a tour play are one in 12.5 million. When comparing these numbers against the odds for AJGA All-Americans, one cannot help but see how strong a predictor of future success this prestigious honor is.

“Making a Rolex All-American team is a significant distinction in junior golf that requires a tremendous amount of drive and dedication. If your name is on one of those lists you’ve accomplished something very important at this level and it stands to reason you are poised for future success in the game of golf,” says Mark Oskarson, Chief Operating Officer at the AJGA.

A couple of classes of AJGA All-Americans deserve mention, including maybe the best class ever, 1990 which featured future PGA tour winners (in brackets the number of wins); Notah Begay (4), Stewart Cink (6), Chris Couch (1), Harrison Frazar (1) and Tiger Woods (79). It also includes former PGA tour members Trip Kuehne and Todd Demsey. Another outstanding year was the inaugural class in 1978, which featured PGA Tour winners: Mark Brooks (7), Mark Calcavecchia (13), Jim Gallagher (5), Jodie Mudd (4) and Willie Wood (1).

The list also features many individuals who although they did not make it in professional golf, have significantly contributed to golf in other areas. This includes Mark Thaxton of Nike Sports, notable instructors Brian Mogg, Jon Mclean and E. J. Pfister, as well as a lengthy list of college coaches including Doug Martin (Cincinnati), Jessie Mudd (Lamar), Rob Bradley (Purdue), Billy Tuten (St Thomas), and Ryan Hybl who lead the University of Oklahoma to the 2017 NCAA National Team Title. Although they did not win on the PGA Tour, individuals like Billy Tuten had outstanding playing careers which featured a NCAA team championship, US Publix Links Championship, trip to the Masters and U.S. Open (1990/1991/1993), as well as a PGA Tour membership from 1989-1991.

The most impressive part of the players listed is their ability to be so consistent. At the best of times, golf is difficult. Many of the people listed in this article demonstrate the ability to play 20-plus years of elite golf spanning junior golf, college golf and then professional golf with very few bad rounds, let alone bad seasons. In my opinion, this ability demonstrates a level of endurance and grit, which surely separates the players who made it from those who were only to sustain their performance for shorter windows of time.

Since 2008, the list continues to show a correlation with players like Emiliano Grillo, Justin Thomas and Jordan Speith all earning First Team All-American honors. It is likely, then, that we will continue to see many future AJGA First Team All-Americans win on the PGA Tour.

How good do you REALLY have to be to compete at a high-level in college golf?

One of the major complaints I hear from parents is, “schools don’t email my son back.”

In October of last year, I published a story with data from college coaches called “Stop Bothering Me! Why NCAA coaches already get too many emails.” The story demonstrated the overwhelming demand of time coaches need to respond to emails from a melee of people from junior golfers to donors to members of their own administration. That article, however, tells only half the story; the other half is for junior players, their parents and coaches to understand the level it takes to contribute to a NCAA Division I team, which has the potential to make the post season (regional championship). For this story, we examine the college rankings of Oklahoma State and Alabama, who just met in the NCAA match play final, as well as Michigan State. Michigan State, ranked No. 54 in the final GolfStat rankings, was the highest and last team to make the post season after automatic bids.

When reviewing the data, keep in mind that currently 62 Power-5 schools have golf teams. If only the top-54 schools make regionals, after automatic qualifiers, it means that 8 Power-5 conference schools are not going to make regionals. Considering the strength of mid-major schools overall, that makes regionals a tough order.

So, what does it take to play at this level? Let me present some data; the teams, their scoring average per player, their averaged dropped score, the Golfweek rankings of the players when they signed to attend the schools and the average Golfweek rankings of the traveling team. Please note that no international players where included because none where ranked by Golfweek, and I did not want to include the World Amateur Golf Rankings.

Oklahoma State (Ranking: No. 1)

Scoring Average: 69.85
Average Dropped Score: 74.13

Players (Golfweek Rank)

  • Zach Bauchou (8)
  • Austin Eckroat (18)
  • Mathew Wolff (36)
  • Nick Heinin (31)
  • Hayden Wood (55)
  • Sam Stevens (26)
  • Stratton Nolen (40)
  • Brandon Jelley (24)

Overall Average Ranking: 29.75

Alabama (Ranking: No. 6)

Scoring Average: 71.04
Average Dropped Score: 75.92


  • Alex Green (70)
  • Davis Riley (6)
  • Johnathan Hardee (21)
  • Ben Fuller (407)
  • Wilson Furr (6)
  • Davis Shore (3)
  • Lee Hodges (Transfer)

Overall Average ranking: 85.5
Average ranking of starters: 9

Michigan State (Ranking: No. 54)

Scoring Average: 72.86
Average dropped score: 76.6


  • Devin Deogun (96)
  • Dylan Deogun (Transfer)
  • James Poit (81)
  • Zach Rosendale (436)
  • Andrew Walker (44)
  • Austin Jenner (93)
  • Kaleb Johnson (565)
  • Michael Sharpe (170)
  • Charlie Green (204)

Overall Average ranking: 219
Average ranking of starters: 212.8

Do you see a pattern? Although the sample size is small, teams who compete at the national level (including playing regionals) need difference makers who in college can average 73 or better. Historically, the data suggests that difference makers usually have scoring differential that is negative, and they are ranked in the top 100-150 in their class. How good is the 20th ranked player in the class? According to Junior Golf Scoreboard, the 20th player in the 2018 class has a scoring differential of -3.92, and the 20th player for the 2019 has a scoring differential of -2.51. Likewise, the scoring differential for the 220-ranked player in the 2018 class is -.14, and the 220th player for the 2019 class is +.18. This means that a player recruited at 20 in the country, who typically ends up at Alabama or Oklahoma State, is about 3.5 shots per round better than a recruit at 220 (which make sense since the data above suggests that Oklahoma State’s average counting score is about 3 shots better than Michigan State).

The simply fact is that coaches need difference makers and it is not getting any easier. Under title IX, most teams are only allowed 8-10 players. In a 4-year recruiting cycle, this means 2 players per year. Being wrong is quite literally a matter of being fired. As a result, you better believe that coaches take recruiting seriously and are carefully weighing all options. For the most part, coaches are likely to prefer not only a negative scoring differential but strong physical ability, sound technique and a love of competition. Occasionally, a coach will take a risk. The data suggests this happens about 1/10 times for a team ranked in the top 100. For example, Casey Lubhan at Michigan State, decided to give Kaleb Johnson a chance because of his power and work ethic. The result? Kaleb is now a as a sophomore is a Big Ten All Conference player. Nice call, Casey! Over time, coaches like Casey who make the right calls are rewarded by making regionals, getting incentives and keep their jobs. However, some many make similar investments and get stuck with a player who does not develop; taking up a valuable roster spot.

For coaches who are in programs where they are held accountable and funded fully, the clear majority are expected to make the regional tournament. The data collected demonstrated to have a chance at regionals, a team must average about 292 or better, or 73 shots per player. Most of the players capable of doing this consistently are going to have junior rankings in the top 100 in their class, with scoring differentials at or near 0. It is important to remember many athletic administrators expect coaches to make at least the regional tournament. Since the best way to do this is recruit talent, data suggests that administrators from nearly all institutions carefully monitor the rankings of signees, expecting coaches to get top talent ranked within the top 100 players in the class (at least).

Beyond the pressure to recruit, it is likely coaches will need to have a strong background in player development. Why? My data suggests that the average AJGA Open boy’s tournament is played from a distance 6849 on a course rating of 71.9. This year’s national championship at Karsten Creek was played at 7460 with a course rating of 77.2. To keep scores the same from junior golf to college, coaches need to make players approximately 5 shots better. Five shots, that’s a lot!

Karsten Creek is not the only hard golf course; for Michigan State to even have a chance to make regionals, they needed to have 4 players per round average about 72 in a tournament schedule which featured places like Inverness, Crooked Stick, Collection River and Ohio State. This means at a course like Ohio State with a course rating of 76.2 and yardage of 7455, you would need to be approximately a +3 handicap to help Michigan State. That’s ridiculous at the best of times; now consider the tournament is in March when the weather can be 40 degrees. Scarlett, 7500ish yards, 40 degrees, and a 73 average?! There are only several hundred players in the world that can do this and Michigan State needs four of them (at least).

If you have a scoring differential that’s not negative, it does not mean that you cannot play college golf. It also does not mean that you don’t have a future in golf. However, it likely means considering schools outside of the top 125 in Golfstat Cup in Division One Golf. When doing the search, if you are serious about a future playing golf, I would encourage you to carefully weigh more than just ranking; find a place where you will have the opportunity to play every event. This will give you 100+ college starts over 4 years, which is likely to provide you a solid foundation in tournament golf to prepare you for the next level.

I hope this article has given junior golfers, their parents and coaches insight into recruiting from a coach’s perspective. Having been involved in college athletics for 15+ years, it has been my experience that college golf is a meritocracy and follows the simple principal; if you are good enough, you will make it. So even if right now your game is not at that level, find a place, work hard and compete. No reason we will not see you on TV someday.

Strength of Junior Golf

There is a growing theme in college and junior golf; going deep! I mean deep, here are some examples:

  • Andrea Lee of Stanford shots 58 in practice
  • Cal Berkley wins Wyoming Desert Intercollegiate with -47 as a team
  • College of Charleston wins Loyola Intercollegiate with -48 as a team
  • UNLV wins National Invitational Tournament with -50 as a team
  • Kaitlin Milligan of University of Oklahoma shoots 62 in the first round of the Westbrook Invitational
  • Ximena Gonzalez Garcia shoots 64 in the final round of the Global Junior Golf Event in Mexico
  • Florida Junior Tour had 27 boys break par at Stone Creek, including two final rounds 65’s
  • Dongjin Park shoots 61 in first round of IJGT Georgia Open at Savannah Quarters
  • Julian Perico shoots 205 (3 rounds) to win AJGA invitational, including 65 in 2nd round

These kids and college golfers are simply good, and this is not a trend that has just started. Data suggests that in 2016 there where 902 rounds in the 60’s by boys in AJGA tournaments and 626 rounds in the 60’s by girls. In 2017, boys broke par 1698 times, while girls did it 454 times. Even in 2004 numbers where very good and when considering the fewer tournament, work out to averaging approximately the same while still having significant rounds in the middle 60’s and tournaments won with scores under par.

The trend is not only in AJGAs, according to Chris Smeal, founder of Future Champions Golf, “the scores that it takes to compete in junior golf is very low! Last year, we had several scores under 65, including a 62 in our recent FCG Western States Cup and a record -15 under to win the girls division.” Data I have collected examining the Junior Tour of Northern California shows that to win in 2017 the average boys score was 143.48 (2 day) and the average girls score was 146 (2 day). When examining the scores, keep in mind that Perico’s 205 was at the Fazio Course at Carlton Woods which measures 7,358 with a course rating of 75.8 and a slope of 144. Likewise, the Florida Junior Tour at Stone Creek was played at 7,033 yards with a course rating of 73.4 and slope of 125. This means that at points junior golfers are playing at handicaps of +9 or better in tournaments, making the results eerily close to what it takes to play elite amateur and even professional golf.

According to Kevin Smeltz, a top 100 teacher and director of Instruction at Bishops Gate, as well as coach to Julian and Dongjin Park, “at Bishops Gate we have 80+ highly motived students who work to better their game every day. These students not only live right on a world class golf course and practice facility, they also have access to outstanding technology, and a support system which includes experts in fitness and psychology like Dr. Fran Pirozzolo and Ms. Karen Harrison, M.S.”

While the golf is not necessarily better than a decade ago, it is certainly deeper. Youth has more access to tournaments and opportunities to play. According to PGA tour Coach Dan Carharrer “the biggest difference from junior golf when I was a kid vs. now is that US Kids and other organizations have streamline the process allowing kids to build competitive experiences on courses where they have an opportunity to break par. Kids as young as 10 are shooting -10+ to win tournaments, creating a large pool of young golfers who are simply not afraid to shoot way low. With so many great young players, tournaments across the country are seeing low scores.”

While, more players are breaking par, the best players are demonstrating they can go long streaks under par earning scoring differentials into the -7 to -9 range. Scoring differential is the players scoring average against the course rating. A scoring differential of 0 would mean the player normally shoots the course rating. A negative scoring differential means the player typically shoots better than the course rating, which in broad terms means the players handicap would equate to a “plus” or better than par. Now consider there are 500+ boys on Junior Golf Scoreboard and 300 girls with negative scoring differentials!

For junior golfer, parents and coaches, it is important to make “breaking par” one of the skills that juniors learn and practice as part of their development. For many this process will begin on their home golf course and can start with the junior playing the course from as short as 5200 yards. The key is the junior learns to leverage their strengths to make birdies, as well as feel comfortable as possible with shooting scores that start with the number “6” and as they improve their skills, even start to think about scores which start with “5”.

Early Commitments

In this month’s article, I would like to address the issue of early commitments. As many of the readers might be aware, Brad Dalke, a member of the 2017 NCAA Championship team at the University of Oklahoma Golf committed when he was 12 years old. Since that time, many more young men and women are committing early with players like Ben James (2021) committed to UConn and Hudson Weibel (2021) to Oklahoma. As this becomes more common, I wanted to explore the reasons it is happening, as well as the thoughts of eminent scientists about the phenomena.

A key aspect of early commitments is about the information available to people on sites like National Junior Golf Score Board and AJGA. These sites, which list college signees, only cover those which sign a National Letter of Intent; that is the player gets a scholarship. Scholarship players likely only make up less than half of all that play college golf, therefore the numbers for these players leave a poor anchor for players, families and coaches.

It is also important to remember that Letters of Intent can be offered two times per year. The first time is a 10-day window in November, when coaches are done the fall season and have the time to report results to outlets like NJGS or AJGA. The other window is in the spring, after April 1, when coaches are in the middle of exams and conference or regional tournaments. This makes it more likely they will not report the results.

Players, parents and coaches should also consider the long-term impact of the decision. According to Dr. Fran Piozzolo, a PhD and mental trainer for Northwestern University and Bishop’s Gate Golf Academy the decision one makes about where he or she will go to college is a very complicated and important decision that most 18 year-old high school athletes are not fully prepared to make. “The phenomenon of even younger student-athletes, some as young as 11 or 12, participating in recruiting activities, is troubling from several perspectives. Even the most mature and intellectually gifted young people cannot possibly be expected to make good decisions for themselves, with or without the assistance of parents and other advisors”. His comments are based on his own research which demonstrates the development of exceptionally talented athletes follows no predictable algorithm (Pirozzolo & Bjork, 2017), instead the research found “the myth that young prodigies have a gift that spans across many performance domains is just not supported by scientific data. Research strongly supports the assumption that gifted athletic prowess has more to do with the family than any other single factor in the development of exceptional talent (Bloom, 1985)”.

Dr. David Grecic, the chair of Sport at the University of Central Lancashire in the United Kingdom agrees with many point of Dr. Piozzolo, suggesting “the focus on early specialization in golf and its resultant practices is a worrying development. Youngsters and parents alike are being given the impression that adult level skills are required at younger and younger ages or they will be excluded from golf’s talent pathway.  This focus is transmitted from and to high schools, colleges and even management companies who are now exerting unwelcome and unmerited pressure on young golfers without understanding the true nature of the potential elite performer’s individualized developmental pathway. Indeed, unless we have a crystal ball and can see into the future many of the decisions made by recruiters to predict success are ill conceived and are not helpful in supporting youngsters who love the game”.

Brendan Ryan, a former college golf coach who writes extensively on junior and college golf suggests “players, under the supervision of their parents and coaches, need to own the process and understand they are on a unique journey that is not about checking boxes, but building developmental assets which will prepare them to lead healthy adult lives”. The issue, according to Brendan is that players and parents are too worried about aspects of the school that are not important, instead his advice is: ‘the only thing young people need to consider is how the school can help the student transform during their adolescence years into a healthy, happy adult”.

The fact is, in the US, there are lots of amazing universities that combine the opportunity to earn a degree, while playing competitive college golf. With so many amazing options, students should not be a hurry but instead work through to find a place where they will have the best opportunity to grow academically, socially and financially.

The Skill of Breaking Par

In our previous article, NCAA Handicap, we provided data on the tournament handicaps of the #1 players at DI, DII, NAIA and Junior College. In this article, we are going to talk about the importance of the skill of breaking par including providing data on the number of rounds under par by junior golfers and ways you can build the skill of breaking par.

In the last article we reported that the best player in the country Justin Suh of USC has a handicap of between +6-+7 in tournament golf over the fall. Likewise, last year I reported that there were over 900 rounds played under par by boys in AJGAs and over 700 rounds played under par by girls. In my own experience, playing with many elite junior players including Won Jun Lee, Karl Villips and Aiden Ye, it is common for them to shoot significantly under par at their home golf courses and often shoot between -3 to -7 on their home golf course during practice. What does this mean for a junior golfer and their family reading this article? Breaking par is a skill and like any other skill should be practiced. I would strongly recommend that tournament golfers play frequently from shorter tee boxes (as close as 5400 yards) with goals of shooting lower and lower. For example, a good junior tournament golfer might have the following goals:

  • Shoot 70 or better a lot from 6800 yards
  • Shoot 68 or better from 6400 yards
  • Shoot 65 or better from 6000 yards

These numbers should be tweaked slightly depending on the junior, their skill level and tournament experience.

Investing in breaking par is an important skill for junior golfers since men’s college coaches certainly seek players who have experience breaking par in tournaments. Also, it is likely that tournament golf will be 1-4 shots harder than playing your home golf course. If earning a college scholarship requires a scoring average of 75 or better, this means that the player might need to average as little as 71 on their home golf course!

Remember that, like any skill, shooting under par is going to take time. When working on the skill, players might want to start by segmenting rounds into smaller groups, maybe groups of 3 holes. Then try and have as many 3-hole scores under par per round as possible. As the player’s skill increases, they might make the segments bigger, for example 9 holes, until the player can accomplish their goal over 18 holes.

Please also remember that whenever possible, players should be playing at least 18 holes per day. Elite golf is about continuous steady play. Shooting outstanding scores over 54 holes requires not only great technical skill but also endurance, hydration, nutrition, focus, stress management and the ability to make birdies. In the summer, when juniors don’t have any academic responsibilities, it would not be impossible to play 36 holes or more of golf per day. As players improve skills, they should not be afraid to play other golfers of a similar level in competition. It would be ideal if the competition had a consequence; the loser may have to clean the winners clubs or if appropriate for a snack after the round.

I hope this article has been helpful to junior golfers and their families. In the coming months, along with the Northern California Golf Association, we hope to produce more statistically based information to help junior golfers and their families make informed decisions. Should you have any questions about the process or ideas for topics to be covered, please do not hesitate to let us know!

NCAA Handicap

Starting this year, I have partnered with the Northern California to provide junior golfers, their families and golf professionals more data about junior golf development and the college search process. For our first article, we are going to examine the question: How good are the #1 players at Division 1, Division 2, NAIA and Junior College Men’s Golf? With the help of Jim Cowan, director of course rating and handicapping for the Northern California Golf Association, I set out to examine the tournament handicaps of each of these players from their results in the 2017 fall season and answer this question!

According to, the best Division I golfer in the fall of 2017 was Justin Suh of the University of Southern California. Justin was the best player at any level with an adjusted scoring average of 68.5 for 12 rounds. The best player for Division II golf was Jacob Huizinga of the University of West Florida. For 12 rounds Jacob averaged 69.4. The best NAIA player was Rowan Lester from Texas Wesleyan University. For 11 rounds Rowan averaged 70.27. The best Junior College player was Mathias Lorentzen from McLennan CC. For 7 rounds Mathias averaged 69.71. After identifying the players, I build a spread sheet for each player with each of their rounds, the yardage and the course rating. Weather was not taken into consideration. Yardage was also based on the numbers listed on tournament results and may not be absolute, however they are close enough to provide a baseline.

Player Name Score Ratings Diff Course
Justin Suh 70 76.6/150 -5.0 Olympia Fields
69 76.6/150 -5.7 Olympia Fields
Ave Differential: -6.175 71 76.6/150 -4.2 Olympia Fields
Upper half: -7.35 67 76.0/134 -7.6 Trinity Forest
(6 of 12) 69 76.0/134 -5.9 Trinity Forest
67 76.0/134 -7.6 Trinity Forest
67 75.4/143 -6.6 Pumpkin Ridge
71 75.4/143 -3.5 Pumpkin Ridge
63 75.4/143 -9.8 Pumpkin Ridge
67 74.4/144 -5.8 Poppy Hills
66 74.4/144 -6.6 Poppy Hills
67 74.4/144 -5.8 Poppy Hills
Rowan Lester 69 74.1/137 -4.2 Hawks Creek
67 74.1/137 -5.9 Hawks Creek
Ave Differential:   -2.673 78 74.1/137 +3.2 Hawks Creek
Upper half: -4.4 69 72.7/137 -3.1 Salishan
(5 of 11) 67 72.7/137 -4.7 Salishan
69 72.7/137 -3.1 Salishan
71 72.4/142 -1.1 Straits Course
70 72.4/142 -1.9 Straits Course
73 74.5/136 -1.2 Guilardia
70 74.5/136 -3.7 Guilardia
70 74.5/136 -3.7 Guilardia




Jacob Huizinga

69 74.0/134 -4.2 Streamsong Blue
63 74.0/134 -9.3 Streamsong Blue
Ave Differential:   -3.608 70 74.0/134 -3.4 Streamsong Blue
Upper half: -5.5 68 74.6/147 -5.1 PGA Ntl – Champion
71 74.6/147 -2.7 PGA Ntl – Champion
71 74.6/147 -2.7 PGA Ntl – Champion
75 75.9/142 -0.7 Innisbrook – Copperhead
70 75.9/142 -4.7 Innisbrook – Copperhead
71 75.9/142 -3.9 Innisbrook – Copperhead
73 71.3/135 +1.4 Trump Ntl – Red Tiger
69 71.3/135 -1.9 Trump Ntl – Red Tiger
64 71.3/135 -6.1 Trump Ntl – Red Tiger
Mathias Lorentzen 68 70.2/118 -2.1 Andrews CC
70 70.2/118 -0.2 Andrews CC
Ave Differential:   -2.186 75 74.0/126 +0.1 Twin Rivers
Upper half: -4.233 66 74.0/126 -7.2 Twin Rivers
(3 of 7) 71 71.9/129 -0.8 Rawls Course
68 71.9/129 -3.4 Rawls Course
70 71.9/129 -1.7 Rawls Course

In the data we have listed both the average differential, as well as the upper half. The average differential is the handicap based on all the rounds the individual played in the fall. The upper half is their tournament handicap; it only considers a certain percentage of the best rounds.

When reviewing the data, please keep in mind that the yardages for the tournaments have not been verified and it is likely that they could have played a shorter distance at least one of the rounds. Weather was also not factored in or score vs field.

Regardless of these factor, this article highlights the skills of these tremendous young players, who are playing exceptional golf on difficult courses. In the follow up article, we are going to examine the importance of breaking par for the junior player, as well as highlight tips to help you!

I hope you have enjoyed the data. Should you have any questions, comments or ideas for future articles, please do not hesitate to contact me at Happy golfing.

Challenge Cup

Pebble Beach, CA
January 3-4, 2017

Challenge Cup

Live Scoring

January 4, 2018

The Junior Tour of Northern California rolled to a win to take the lead in the annual Challenge Cup.

The JTNC claimed a dominating 17-7 victory over the Southern California Junior Tour, closing out play in the two-day event at Poppy Hills Golf Course with an 8-4 win in Singles play. Winning their matches for the JTNC were Justin Gums, Carlos Arieta Winsett, Sam Sommerhauser, Ethan Chung, George McNeely, Yealimi Noh and Sabrina Iqbal. Getting halves were Sebastian Iqbal and Caleb Shetler.

Winning in Singles for the SCJT were Ray Navis, Jasmine Lew and Amari Avery. The JTNC took a commanding 9-3 over the SCJT on opening day, running the table in both Foursome and Four-Ball.

For the players, the Cup is unique in that it’s a chance to compete as a team, and not as individuals.

“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. “It’s fun too to get to meet the players from SoCal. It’s fun to compare your games.”

Now in its third year, the Cup too has become a hot spot for collegiate coaches looking to scout available players. Among the programs out in the rain watching first round action were University of Oregon, Stanford, Oklahoma State, North Carolina and Illinois.

The JTNC now leads in the series, 2-1.




January 3, 2018

The Junior Tour of Northern California got off to a brilliant start, but there’s still another day to go.

The JTNC took a commanding 9-3 over the Southern California Junior Tour on opening day of the 2018 Cup, running the table in both Foursome and Four-Ball on a rainy Wednesday at par-71 Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach.

In the morning Four-Ball matches, the JTNC got wins from Kiran Sangha/Mika Jin, Sebastian Iqbal/Ethan Chung, Justin Gums/Sam Sommerhauser and George McNeely/Brian Stark. The SCJT got a win from the tandem of Guy Clauss/Tyler Schafer.

In the afternoon matches, the JTNC again racked up four points, getting a win from the tandem of Sabrina Iqbal and Yealimi Noh. Iqbal is the all-time leader in JTNC wins with 25.

For the players, the Cup is a chance to compete as a team, and not as individuals.

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

Now in its third year, the Cup has become a hot spot for collegiate coaches looking to scout available players. Among the programs out in the rain watching first round action were University of Oregon, Stanford, Oklahoma State, North Carolina and Illinois.

Last year, the JTNC evened the series at one win apiece following a 15-9 victory.


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Challenge Cup is our two day team match play event played against a team from the Southern California Junior Tour.   Over the last couple of years this has put together some of the states best players here at Poppy Hills.

We will select a team based on Fall Series points; the top six boys and three girls in the Player of the Year race will get an automatic invite.  (All points must come from Championship Flights.) We are also reserving three captains picks, which will be two boys and a girl, and will be picked by our committee.  To be picked as a captain’s pick a player must have played at least one Fall Series event.


Holiday Series III: Poppy Hills & Del Monte G.C.

Pebble Beach, CA
December 28-29, 2016

Results  |  Pairings

Contestant Information Sheet

Yardages – Poppy Hills | Del Monte


CIG-Sponsored Junior Golf Tour of Northern California Crowns Winners at Holiday Series III Championship at Del Monte Golf Course in Monterey and Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (December 30, 2016) – Sponsored by Capital Insurance Group, the 2016-2017 Junior Tour of Northern California (JTNC) crowned champions Thursday at the Holiday Series III Championship at Del Monte Golf Course in Monterey and Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach.

San Jose resident Lucas Carper shot 2-over par 143 and Santa Clara resident Andrea Gomez shot 11-over 154 and defeated Mika Jin in a playoff to win their respective divisions at the Holiday Series III Championship held Wednesday and Thursday at par-72 Del Monte GC and par-71 Poppy Hills GC.

Junior Tour of Northern California

Boys’ Championship winner Lucas Carper, runner-up Griffin Long and third place finisher Thomas Hutchison (left to right)

Carper finally got his turn at the top after two runner-up finishes including one at the Holiday Series II Championship. He’d earn his first victory of the 2016-2017 season thanks to a solid final round 1-over 72 at Poppy Hills that featured a birdie and 13 consecutive pars.

A day earlier at Del Monte, Carper played his back-nine at even par after carding a birdie and bogey to go with seven pars. In both rounds combined, he played the front-nine at just 1-over par.

Those trying to catch Carper but coming up just a stroke shy of forcing a playoff were Davis’ Griffin Long, San Jose’s Thomas Hutchison and Brendan Hopkins of Danville. Both Long and Hopkins had final round scores of 75.

Hutchison, the reigning JTNC Player of the Year, slipped with three bogeys en route to a back-nine 38.

Ryan Grauman of Alamo had the biggest turnaround, carding a 69 at Poppy Hills a day after opening with an 80 at Del Monte. Sam Sommerhauser of Rocklin placed fifth at 148 after a 71.

Junior Tour of Northern California

Girls’ Championship third place finisher Faith Low, runner-up Mika Jin and winner Andrea Gomez (left to right)

In the Girls’ Championship, Gomez also notched her first win of the season after defeating Jin on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff. In her first round at Poppy Hills, Gomez was steady, carding 13 pars.

She’d slip to a 78 at Del Monte, but came up big when it counted, posting an even-par 36 to stay in the playoff chase with Jin.

Jin, who hails from Fremont, had chances to win the title outright but bogeyed both the 16th and 17th holes in regulation.

Faith Low of Foster City and San Ramon’s Danielle Suh both came in tied for third at 156 after final rounds of 79 and 82, respectively. Low would be awarded third place in a card-off. Quynn Duong of San Jose was fifth at 158 following a 76.

Junior Tour of Northern California

Boys’ First Flight third place finisher Krishan Patel, runner-up Keyan Patel and winner Camden Daly (left to right)

In the Boys’ First Flight Championship, Camden Daly of San Leandro took top honors, finishing at 157 after a final round 76. Finishing tied for second place at 158 were Keyan Patel of Pismo Beach and Krishan Patel of San Jose after rounds of 81 and 75, respectively. Keyan Patel claimed second place in a card-off.

Fourth place went to Cupertino’s Connor Lien at 159, while Danville’s Justin Hopkins was fifth at 163. Jacob Aaron of Napa had the shot of the tournament, making an albatross two on the par-5 9th at Del Monte.

Junior Tour of Northern California

Girls’ First Flight winner Annika Cruz, runner-up Camilla Chung and third place finisher Makenna Cabardo (left to right)

In the Girls’ First Flight Championship, Annika Cruz of Milpitas defeated Camilla Chung on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff to claim the title.

Both came in tied at 165 after regulation following an 85 from Cruz and an 83 by Chung.

Third place went to Makenna Cabardo of Scottsdale at 170, while Nathalie Benrey of Atherton and Viveka Kurup of Redwood Shores shared fourth place at 176.

Next up on the JTNC calendar is the Challenge Cup, slated for Jan. 3-4 at Poppy Hills GC.

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