It's the inaugural season for the Turlock Golf and Country Club's PGA Junior League team and the program has already seen success. In just their first year together, they captured a Division title after defeating Oakdale on Sunday as part of the Central Valley of the Northern California League.
“This year we decided to create a team to compete in the seven-team league,” said Turlock head coach Jerrold Kennedy. “It was brought up to us with our local players to keep them here instead of traveling to Stockton.”
The co-ed roster included 11 athletes, ranging from the ages of seven to 13.
The squad is made up of Lawson Aviles, Reece Benjamin, Izabella Kennedy, Sydney Kennedy, Christian Maggard, Grant Old, Elias Rabine, Clark Van Gaalen, Savannah Van Gaalen, Carter Van Gaalen and Keean Young.
The season runs for 10 weeks, starting the second weekend of May through July.
“We play only nine-hole matches,” said Kennedy. “Three matches, so whoever wins first three holes is a point, and next three another and final three another point.”
The year just concluded after a 7-5 victory over Oakdale.
“One of our closer matches as well, but we clinched the Division with the win,” said Kennedy. “These kids make the game look so easy.”
Turlock concluded the regular season with a Division record of 5-1.
“We have Spanos, Stockton, Oakdale Country Club, Swinson, Elkhorn and Spring Creek competing with us in this division,” said Kennedy. “Out of the seven teams, we play match play with the other teams and a total of 12 points available. Three points available for each match. Whoever has most points wins the match.”
Their only loss was to Spanos after a 7-5 final, but they bounced back to win it all and they did it with a young squad.
Six of the 11 kids were new heading into the season, so coach Kennedy gladly began working with his young prospects.
“We had six new kids. To get to be part of the matches, get to learn how to play the game, peaks interest in wanting to play more golf,” said Kennedy. “It’s strictly on the kids to make decisions on what’s the best ball, learning the courses and scoring…I love the Junior PGA league, the kids get to learn themselves.
“I get a kick out of seeing them all do so well. We had all the kids with the desire to succeed and do well... it was fun,” said Kennedy. “From here, we will take two kids from Turlock, combine an All Star with seven teams of our league, two kids will go out in Bay Area and play in a 19-team bracket.”
Those two All Stars are Sydney Kennedy and Clark Van Gaalen.
“The winner plays Regionals in San Francisco, then from there possibly go to Arizona for junior championships,” Kennedy added. “Also, Sydney and Clark will be going to Pinehurst, North Carolina to play Junior Worlds in August.”