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Siblings deliver titles in respective divisions at prestigious NorCal junior golf tournament
Van Gaalen kids
Van Gaalen siblings Carter, 12, Clark, 16, and Savannah, 15, each won their respective divisions in the prestigious Junior Golf Association of Northern California event (JOE CORTEZ/The Journal).

The Van Gaalen Family has taken sibling rivalry to a new level with their recent performances in the 70th annual Bumgardner Tournament July 11-12 at Del Rio Country Club in Modesto.

Sixteen-year-old Clark, 15-year-old Savannah and 12-year-old Carter each won their respective divisions in the prestigious Junior Golf Association of Northern California event, with Clark claiming the overall championship.

Former winners of the Bumgardner include 2020 U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau; former PGA Tour winner Matt Bettencourt; former touring pro Kevin Wentworth of Manteca; Kurt Kitayama, who finished second by a stroke in this month’s Scottish Open; and former LPGA Tour pros Joan Pitcock, Keri Arnold and Lisa Ferrero, currently the women’s golf coach at Fresno State.

While all three of the Van Gaalen kids admit to being ultra-competitive, they contend that the competitive fire doesn’t typically exist among the trio. Nevertheless, it was their individual competitive natures that allowed them to deliver a truly unique feat.

“I’ve been here 20 years and I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Fred Rodriguez, Director of Golf at Del Rio. “A while back there was a family from either the Bay Area or from Sacramento and they had several kids – boys and girls – compete in the tournament. But I’ve never seen where all the kids from one family each won their division.”

Carter, who led Stockton’s Jacob Garibaldi by a stroke after one round, knew before finishing his second round that his older brother and sister had won their respective divisional titles.

So, was the seventh-grader to be feeling any pressure to nail down a Van Gaalen trifecta?

“Nope,” said Carter, who was far more interested in a big bowl of popcorn than he was in answering questions during a recent interview at Turlock Golf and Country Club. “Just trying to make pars.”

Carter hit driver, then 7-iron to within 2½ feet for a closing birdie on the first hole of the Oak Course, securing a sudden death victory over Garibaldi in the boys 12-13 age group. Van Gaalen and Garibaldi finished regulation play seven strokes ahead of Fresno’s Nikolas Lettas.

Clark, a junior-to-be at Turlock High, shot back-to-back rounds of 72 (144) and outpaced Ripon’s Chad Flory by three shots for this third Bumgardner title.

Flory carded a 68 during his second round, which included six birdies.

Savannah, a sophomore-to-be at THS, finished with matching 82s for a two-day total of 164, two shots clear of Folsom’s Lillian McGowan in the girls 14-15 division. McGowan and Van Gaalen were tied for the lead after the opening round.

A Sac-Joaquin Section Masters championship is the goal this coming season for Clark, who already is hearing from a plethora of major Division I golf programs. Similarly, Savannah wants to win a Masters title and eventually play in college.

“That’s definitely the goal,” she says.

And Carter? Might he want to follow his siblings’ lead and chase section glory and, perhaps, attain a college scholarship?

“Sure,” he says with a non-committal shrug.

That’s a long way off for the youngest Van Gaalen. Until then, there’s popcorn that needs tending to.