The team, which includes 13-year-old Kirabo Reed from Brentwood, earned its spot to compete for a national championship by going undefeated in local league competition this summer. It next beat the best team from the Sacramento league in a match held at Rancho Solano Golf Course in Fairfield, where many of the GRIP teams shot six, seven and even eight-under-par.
The victory earned the team its spot in the PGA Regionals, held outside of Los Angeles in August. Here, the players were truly tested for the first time – and excelled. In 110-degree heat, they earned the right to represent California in the Junior League National Championships, held Sept. 15 and Sept.16 at historic Cog Hill.
The tournament started with a skills competition at Medinah Country Club. Reed (long drive), Jared Khoo of Danville (chipping) and Hayden Hui of Dublin (putting) all competed and represented Team GRIP well in the competition.
Team GRIP took care of its first two competitors handily, beating the Texas champs 10.5-1.5 and Illinois 10-2. It all came down to the match against the former champions from Georgia. Tension was high, but the players were ready to go. Team GRIP coach and PGA professional Andy Nisbet emphasized the importance of playing their own game.
“It’s not who you play; it’s how you play,” Nisbet said. “We decided to keep the team pairings the same as the afternoon match on Saturday. We felt these were our best pairings, and the kids were gelling with this lineup. Though the team had two uniforms to choose from, they decided that they wanted to keep their luck going and wear their white pants from the day before.”
After six of nine holes against the talented Georgia team, California held a slim 4.5-3.5 lead. A pep talk from Nisbet and coach Tony Guerrero helped the players kick it into a whole different gear starting on the seventh. Team GRIP won all four matches on the final three holes, defeating Georgia 8.5-3.5, and was named PGA Junior League National Champions.
For pictures, videos, and detailed hole-by-hole scoring, visit www.gripgolfer.com and follow the Road to a GRIP National Championship link.
– Contributed by Emily Chin