John Mason received an early Christmas this year, as Team California, a group of San Diego junior players he captains, recently won the PGA Junior League Golf Championship in dramatic fashion at Disney’s Palm Course in Florida.
Krando Nishiba drained a 35-foot birdie putt in a playoff to clinch the victory over Team Georgia, this coming after Nishiba missed a similar putt on the same hole that would have clinched the win in regulation. He didn’t miss his second chance.
The PGA Junior League Golf Championship features nine-hole matches played in a two-person scramble format, with points awarded based on number of holes won. Final scoring is based on the record of matches won, tied and lost. Eight teams from different states competed and Mason’s team went 3-0 in its division before facing off against Team Georgia in the final.
“It was a total team effort and every player on the team contributed to the outcome,” said Mason, the longtime PGA Director of Instruction at Encinitas Ranch. “This is the beauty of the PGA Junior League, the format allows everyone to contribute.”
Team California members are Nicholas Chang, Shane Ffrench, Jay Leng Jr., Jackson Moss, Krando Nishiba, Dylan Oyama, Ryan Smith, Jared Tran, Daina Tsuru, and Jaycie Stewart. Stewart contributed with two key putts in the final to give her team a 6-4 lead.
California and Georgia have dominated this competition, as teams from both states have made the finals for five straight years. Teams representing the state of Georgia won the PGA Junior League Golf Championship in 2011 and 2013, and teams from California first captured the title in 2012—and now in back-to-back years in 2014 and 2015. Last year, a team from San Francisco won it. Now, the crystal trophy belongs to San Diego.
“Every time we were down, we came back,” said Mason. “I am so proud for San Diego.
“The kids were amazing.”
Mason formed his PGA Junior League program at Encinitas Ranch, a JC Golf course, three years ago and it continues to grow. Last year he started a complementary in-house league of 40-plus youngsters, which gives less-experience players the training and skills to feed into the PGA Junior League. To sign up for these programs, you can contact Mason at email@example.com or (760) 473-8483.
Marc Figueroa is a freelance writer who has been covering golf in San Diego for more than 20 years.