Redwood Canyon Junior Golfers
Capture PGA League Championship
July 31, 2016
The Redwood Canyon junior golf team posted a perfect undefeated record to capture the inaugural PGA Junior League Golf championship for the East Bay Redwood Canyon section. Led by stalwarts Baron Szeto, Sydney Silva, and Kaydee and Kaylen Tu the team competed against similar junior teams from Monarch Bay, Sykwest, and Alameda golf courses in both home and away matches over a two-month season. These same four young golfers have been named to the All-Star team, which will go on to compete for the National PGA Junior League title.
“The PGA Junior League is a great way for young golfers to experience team play while having a lot of fun playing golf.” said Eric Jones, 2014 PGA Teacher of the Year and the team’s coach. “The 2-person scramble format takes the pressure off while the match-play format keeps it exciting.”
According to its website the PGA Junior League Golf (PGA JLG) is “designed to bring a ‘Little League’ atmosphere to the game of golf.” Team members and spectators – mostly parents – all cheer when the young golfers hit good shots.
“We cheer for everybody, no matter what team they are on.” said parent Matt Silva, a Castro Valley resident. “They try really hard, and you can just see how the applause gets them pumped up. It’s a great way for us to reward their effort, and it’s a great motivator for them.”
The format is obviously successful.
From just a handful of teams and 170 players in 2011 the PGA Junior League has grown to more than 30,000 participants and 2,500 teams around the country. That’s led to local, sectional, and regional playoffs, and a highly competitive National Championship.
Junior League teams are a mix of boys and girls under the age of 13, all wearing numbered jerseys sporting their facility’s colors. Eight golfers from each course are divided into four 2-person teams. Each 2-person team plays a 9-hole match against their rival 2-person team. The nine holes are divided into three-hole segments, known as “flags”, for a total of three flags per match, and 12 flags per contest. The team that captures the most flags wins the contest.
“What’s especially gratifying is watching them mature as both golfers and as leaders.” said Ben Szeto, who’s son was named Player of the Year. “Baron relished the opportunity to teach the younger players about strategy, competing under pressure, and modeling good sportsmanship. It’s helped him become a better player. But more importantly it’s helped him become a better person.”
“We have a ‘Leaders and Learners’ philosophy for our team.” said Jones, who has also been a coach at Stanford University. “We pair our stronger players with a developing golfer. Then we ask the stronger player to be the leader in the match, helping their partner with club selection, aiming, rules, etiquette, strategy, playing in competition, and being a good sport.”
“At the same time we ask the developing players to watch how the leaders lead,” Jones continued, “because next year we want those learners to step into a leadership role. We view this as a long-term development program.”
Jones runs the Eric Jones Golf Academy at Redwood Canyon golf course in Castro Valley, which features year-round after-school and weekend programs for junior golfers of all abilities. The Junior Academy is a true developmental program that takes young golfers “from first swing to college scholarship.” Visit the Junior Golf Academy page.