The PGA Junior League Golf championship has only been around for a few years, and two teams have consistently stood above all.
On the first day of the 2014 championship, both dominated again.
Georgia, which won the 2013 championship and won the first tournament in 2011, was the only team to go 2-0 on Friday. Highlights included the team of Stephen Foernsler and Connery Meyer going 17-under over their 18 holes (nine in the morning, nine in the afternoon.)
“There were just a lot of putts falling,” Meyer said. “Seemed like every putt we hit went in.”
California, which beat Georgia in the 2012 finals and was the runner-up last year, won its only match yesterday in amazing fashion. The squad scored almost as many points (11.5) in its one match as Georgia did in winning both of its matches (13.5). One of California’s highlights was Andrew Bagasbas making an eagle from about 80 yards out.
“I took like a 54-degree (wedge) and it spun back into the hole,” he said.
Junior League Golf is kind of like golf’s version of Little League Baseball, with teams of boys and girls 13 and under winning regional tournaments to advance to this round. There are eight teams competing in the championship at TPC Sugarloaf outside Atlanta, and they are broken into East and West brackets, with teams playing everyone in their side of the bracket over Friday and Saturday.
In the East, Georgia beat New Jersey on Friday morning, then beat Tennessee in the afternoon. Georgia faces Connecticut (1-1) on Saturday in a match that could determine who wins that side of the bracket.
Tennessee beat Connecticut in the morning and is also 1-1. New Jersey is 0-2.
In the West, California’s big victory was against Iowa. The only other West match on Friday was Indiana beating Texas. California will play both those teams on Saturday.
“I expect us to do good,” said California’s Yealimi Noh.
“Being this close to winning the national championship is pretty cool,” said her teammate Sebastian Iqbal.
A Junior League Golf match covers nine holes and includes all 10 players from each team. They compete in twos, spread across four groups. Two alternates can sub in every three holes.
After teams have played everyone in their bracket, they will be seeded for the finals on Sunday. There will be matches to decide 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, and 7-8.
“Everybody is playing hard,” said Bob Baldassari, director of Youth Golf Development for the PGA. “The big thing is they’re all having fun.”
For more from the opening round action, check out my video recap from the course and my interviews with some of the young golfers competing in the tournament:
Photos: PGA of America