Category - Amateur Programs
Team Florida, Team Pennsylvania, Team Virginia and Team Illinois Advance to Semifinals at 2023 17u National Car Rental PGA Jr. League Championship
After battling through rain and cooling temperatures, the semifinals are officially set at the 17u National Car Rental PGA Jr. League Championship after an intense series of tiebreakers.
At the end of play, Team Florida (Orlando), Team Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh) and Team Virginia (Dulles) finished tied at 45 under through 36 holes at Twin Warriors Golf Club on Nov. 18.
Team Florida secured the No. 1 seed utilizing the first tiebreaker, which is the entire aggregate team total score from both days of stroke play qualifying. After remaining tied through the first tiebreaker, Team Pennsylvania claimed the No. 2 seed over Team Virginia (No. 3) utilizing the second tiebreaker: Saturday’s 18-hole team aggregate total for all three pairs.
Similarly tied for the fourth seed, Illinois and New York ended play tied for fourth at 41-under. The teams remained tied through the first tiebreaker, with Team Illinois claiming the final Semifinal spot by virtue of the second tiebreaker.
The No. 1 and No. 4 seeds and the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds will face off on Nov. 18 to determine who advances to the Championship round. With the 17u Championship in its first year, the team that claims the first-ever 17u national title will make history.
Team Florida Coach Cori McAuliffe, LPGA, said the weather wasn’t ideal, but she’s proud of her team’s strong performance to capture the No. 1 seed.
“It was definitely tougher conditions than what we’re used to at home, but they fought really hard,” McAuliffe said. “It rained, and it was windy, but we’re excited to be moving on to match play tomorrow.”
For Team Pennsylvania, the weather wasn’t as much of an issue.
“Basically, we just went out and did the same thing we did yesterday,” said Aaron Didjunas, 14, of Team Pennsylvania. “More putts dropped today, and I think the rain was on our side. We’re from up North, so we’re used to it more.”
Didjunas and his partner, Carson Higginbotham, hit five birdies in their first nine and an eagle on Hole No 7. The birdies continued in the back nine, for a total of 10 across 18 holes on Day 2.
PGA of America Golf Professional Troy Williams of Hot Shot Golf Academy recognized the importance of the moment, knowing that by earning a spot in the semifinals his team will make history.
“I tell the boys that any time you can be the first to do something, that’s really special,” Williams commented. “They’re going to look back on this in about 10 years and realize that what we’ve accomplished is really big. Being from the Northeast, a lot of teams and a lot of coaches up there don’t think we can compete with the best in the world, and we just proved it.”
Vidur Gopal, 14, of Team Virginia, is excited to advance to the Semifinals, but says the highlight of his experience so far has been having fun on the course with his teammates.
“We all want to play well, but we also want to have a good time and play our best golf,” he said. “I felt like whenever I hit a bad shot today, my partner (Neil Kulkarni) would always pick me up.”
Led by PGA of America Golf Professional Scott Holmes, Team Virginia made a total of 20 birdies on Day 2. Holmes, Youth Golf Coordinator at 1757 Golf Club, was excited by his team’s performance and the chance to play in the Semifinals.
“It was an absolutely fantastic performance,” he said. “Going to the Semifinals in the first 17u Championship is like a dream come true. Everybody dreams of getting here and doing this, and we pulled it off.”
Brody Wall, 14, of Team Illinois only started playing golf a little over a year ago. For him, advancing to the semifinals is a “blessing.”
“I picked up my first golf club about 13 months ago,” Wall said. “Being here is a blessing. My coaches gave me the opportunity, and I just wanted to come out here and do my best.”
For PGA of America Golf Professional Kevin Weeks, who leads Team Illinois, securing a spot in the semifinals was more than enough reason to celebrate, made sweeter by his team’s attitude and come-from-behind performance.
“[One of our pairings] were only one under after the first three or four holes on the back nine,” Weeks commented. “I said, ‘Your score is not going to count for the team total, but one of the tiebreakers is total score, so you need to make some birdies.’ So they turned on the birdie machine. I’m really pleased with them and happy for them because this means something to them.”
The match play semifinals with the top four seeds begin Nov. 18 at 9 a.m. MT to determine who will play in the Championship match beginning at 1:00 p.m. MT. The two teams that do not advance will play in the third place match. Groups and starting times will be available here.
The eight teams not competing in the Semifinals can participate in the Twin Warriors Roundup, a 9-hole, two-person scramble. Team New York (Farmington) in fifth at 41-under after the second tiebreaker; Team Minnesota (Blaine) and Team California (San Jose) tied for sixth at 38-under; Team Utah (South Jordan) in eighth at 37-under; Team Texas (Farmers Branch) and Team North Carolina in ninth at 36-under; Team Kansas (Kansas City) in 11th with 33-under; and Team Kentucky in 12th at 12-under.