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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.

JTNC Alum Samantha Hutchison Named Big West MVP

April 20, 2018

JTNC Alum Samantha Hutchison Named Big West MVP

Former JTNC member Samantha Hutchison, now a junior at UC Davis, was named Big West Player of the Year in April.

The winner of the 2013 NCGA Junior Championship, Hutchison was also named to the All-Big West First Team.

“I can’t say enough about how supportive coach (Anna) Temple, my family and my teammates were in my journey this season,” Hutchison told The Enterprise. “They were so encouraging and really brought out the best in me.”

One of Hutchison’s Aggies teammates is sophomore Yoonhee Kim, who won nine times on the Junior Tour. Hutchison’s brother, Thomas, who plays on the UC Davis men’s squad, was the JTNC Boys’ Player of the Year in 2016.


New Qualifying Series for NCGA Junior Championship

January 31, 2018

New Qualifying Series for NCGA Junior Championship

There’s a new route for players to earn a spot into the prestigious NCGA Junior Championship.

New for 2018, the 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.

2017 champions Brian Stark and Yealimi Noh

“This is a new and 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 17-18).

This year’s 89th NCGA Junior Championship will be held at Lake Merced GC in Daly City, where the championship was first held all the way back in 1930.

Here’s the complete Exemptions list for the 2018 NCGA Junior Championship 

Challenge Cup Returns to Poppy Hills Jan. 3-4

October 30, 2017

Challenge Cup Returns to Poppy Hills Jan. 3-4

Who’s going to take the lead in the Cup series?

We’ll find out on Jan. 3-4, when the third annual Challenge Cup returns to Poppy Hills GC in Pebble Beach.

Featuring 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 North evened the series at 1-1 with a 15-9 victory.

There’s much more to the Cup than just the rivalry, however. At last year’s Cup, the players raved about the event for a number of reasons including the camaraderie and format, which gives them a rare opportunity to compete not only as a team but also in match play.


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

“We hope that through continued growth, the Cup becomes one of the premier junior team events on the West Coast,” said JTNC director Aaron Hartesveldt.

So far, it certainly appears headed that way.

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

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

Sabrina Iqbal—A record four-time Girls’ Player of the Year, Iqbal already has four wins this season and six Top 5’s. The San Jose resident is the all-time leader in JTNC wins with 25.

Mika Jin—Jin, who hails from Fremont, has one win plus four Top 5’s and 7 Top 10’s this season.

Kiran Sangha—The San Mateo resident has one win plus four Top 5’s and six Top 10’s this season.

Yealimi Noh—Noh, of Concord has two wins in her two starts this season, the victories coming at the Fall Series IV and VIII Championships. She is also the defending NCGA/CIF NorCal champion.


The eight JTNC boys will be:

Ethan Chung—Chung, of Cupertino, has two wins and five Top 5’s this season, including a runner-up at the Fall Series I Championship.

Sebastian Iqbal—The San Jose resident has five Top 5’s and six Top 10’s this season, including a pair of runner-ups.

Carlos Arieta-Winsett—From Los Altos, Arieta-Winsett has a win to go with four Top 5’s and six Top 10’s.

Caleb Shetler—Shetler, of Saratoga, has a win to go with four Top 5’s and six Top 10’s this season.

Justin Gums—The Lodi resident has a win and a runner-up at the Fall Series VII Championship.

Sam Sommerhauser—The Rocklin resident has a win to go with two Top 10’s.

Brian Stark—Stark, of Kingsburg, has one win this season. He also finished T-14 at the Junior PGA Championship.

George McNeely—The Carmel resident was runner-up at the Fall Series VII and reached the Round of 32 at the 2017 NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship.

JTNC’s Borrelli, Harris Shine at PURE Insurance Championship

Sept. 24, 2017

Junior Tour of Northern California members Annika Borrelli and Katie Harris didn’t get the big prize, but they certainly left an impression at the PURE Insurance Championship Impacting The First Tee.

Borrelli, representing The First Tee of Tri-Valley, and Harris, playing out of The First Tee of Greater Sacramento, each at one point held the lead in the Pro-Junior portion of the event before eventually finishing fifth and T-6, respectively.

Playing with pro partner Sir Nick Faldo, Borrelli closed out the championship with a 3-under 69 Sunday at Pebble Beach Golf Links. In Friday’s first round at Poppy Hills GC, the two posted a 9-under 62.

“It was awesome to be in the presence of a legend,” Borrelli said. “Just such an incredible experience.”

It was at Poppy Hills that Borrelli picked up her greatest tip from Faldo—believing in yourself.

“We were on the 18th hole and I had 200 yards in. I didn’t think I could get there,” Borrelli said. “He told me go with my 180-club and just have confidence, to believe in myself.”

Borrelli would indeed knock it on the green, and for good measure sank a 100-foot putt.

Harris, playing fellow former Masters champion Vijay Singh, had entered Sunday’s final round in the lead. The two slipped to a 72, but Harris was still all smiles afterwards.

“The biggest lesson I got from Vijay was to just trust myself and the shot,” Harris said. “I never expected that’d I’d make it to Sunday. To do it with him was incredible.”

The JTNC has been a force at the PURE Insurance Championship in recent years. Champions include Casie Cathrea (2011), Michelle Xie (2013) and Jack Avrit (2015). In 2014, former JTNC Player of the Year Joshua McCarthy finished runner-up.

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