Walking to the first tee at the PGA Junior League Golf championship, Team California fired themselves up with a chant that refers to themselves as “Mighty Mighty Cali.” They sure played like it in the finals on Sunday.
California took a big lead early on over defending champions Georgia. But on the final hole they found themselves tied. It took a seven-foot Andrew Bagasbas putt to clinch the title for California.
“We’re just grateful that everyone worked together today,” Bagasbas said. “It was a really tight match. We had to push forward.”
The winners high-fived and sprayed water on each other to celebrate their victory. Once they settled down, they surrounded their coach Jim Collins. He delivered an emotional speech and told the team that he’s retiring. Their huddle ended with one more “Mighty Mighty Cali” chant.
“It was an amazing experience that I’ll never forget,” teammate Sebastian Iqbal said. “I’m glad we all worked together to make this [happen]. This is what we wanted from the beginning. I want to give a big shout-out to our coach, Coach Jim, for being an amazing coach and just being there for all of us.”
This was California’s second championship in the four-year history of the event, which is part of golf’s version of Little League Baseball. Georgia won it twice and has now been the runner-up to California twice.
An emotional Collins said he told the team at dinner the night before that he was thinking about retiring.
“I said I’ve had a good career and I’ve had a good life. You win something like this, and maybe you want to end a nice career out with a national championship,” Collins said.
Right after taking pictures on the final hole, Collins was still emotional when asked what was going through his mind at that moment.
“What’s going through my mind is a lot of joy,” Collins said. “The joy is for the kids. Because that’s what this program is all about. It’s for the kids.”
There are 12 points available in each match. To win each match, a team has to have the most points. In the showdown for the title, California jumped ahead 4.5 to 0.5, then Georgia tied it at 4.5. It then went to 5-all, and the final score was 7-5.
“I think we played solid,” said Georgia’s Tyler Lipscomb. “They just made more putts than us. They played great.”
Georgia’s Connerly Meyer said he learned the value of teamwork.
“Honestly, I learned that you’ve got to work well as a team,” he said. “Teamwork is the most important thing.”
Indiana finished third, followed by Tennessee, Connecticut and Texas. New Jersey and Iowa tied for seventh.
Photos: PGA of America