The 2018 PGA Jr. League Championship presented by National Car Rental is off and running.
Thursday evening, the players, Captains and Coaches attended the Player Party, complete with a longstanding tradition: s’mores!
Scott Flansburg, also known as The Human Calculator, was the special guest at the Player Party. Flansburg – who earned his nickname thanks to an uncanny ability to perform quick mental calculations of all varieties – emceed the Welcome Reception and Skills Challenge at the 2017 Championship. At the Player Party, Flansburg hosted a mini-version of his Counting Bee, which launched locally in Arizona this fall. Teams were asked to select one player to race the clock counting by threes. Thirteen-year-old Ethan Gao of Team Georgia, who competes on the national level in both golf and math, took top honors.
Players enjoy the s'mores station at the Player Party Thursday. (Photo by Darren Carroll/PGA of America)
Friday’s Welcome Reception and Skills Challenge was a mix of beats and birdies this year.
Singer/songwriter Kelley James performed for the crowd, adding his signature freestyling to the background of the long drive station. James had a verse for all 120 competitors, like when 13-year-old Rohan Singh of Team Virginia stepped up to the tee: “Alright, Rohan/Like Tiger Woods you’re the bomb/Let me see what you got/I know you can blast this shot.” James, who has performed with the likes of O.A.R. and The Goo Goo Dolls, is a regular performer at PGA Tour events. However, his next job may be his biggest: friend Jordan Spieth’s wedding.
Kelley James freestyles at the long drive station for each player taking a swing. (Photo by Darren Carroll/PGA of America)
Team Ohio's Cara Heisterkamp crushed a singalong to Sweet Caroline! (Photo by Darren Carroll/PGA of America)
The day wouldn’t be complete without some surprise guest appearances! PGA Tour players Colt Knost and Chez Reavie, along with former caddie and current golf commentator Jim “Bones” Mackay, stopped by to watch the action and meet the players.
Colt Knost (far left) and Chez Reavie (far right) with Team Washington's Baylor Larrabee (3) and John Kummer (1). (Photo by Darren Carroll/PGA of America)
Jim "Bones" MacKay chats with Team Connecticut's North Chery. (Photo by Darren Carroll/PGA of America)
Guess who touched down in Arizona just in time for the opening event? Junior reporter extraordinaire, Warren Fisher! Warren helped introduce and explain the Skills Challenge to those watching from home:
At the Skills Challenge, the 120 players are mixed among five groupings, each with two players from the 12 Championship teams. It’s a chance for kids to meet and play alongside their competitors, rotating through five stations: short putt, long putt, chip, long drive, and cross the pond. The Skills Challenge teams are aptly named for PGA Jr. League Ambassadors and the official hashtag: Team McIlroy, Team Fowler, Team Wie, Team Thompson, and Team Gamechanger.
After the Skills Challenge was the cornhole tournament, where players traded their golf balls for bags.
Team Connecticut and Team Virginia players share a fist bump after a long putt during the Skills Challenge. (Photo by Darren Carroll/PGA of America)
Skills Challenge Winners: Team Wie
Rex Wilson – Team Washington
Ben Wilson – Team Washington
Tommy Lam – Team Virginia
Elijah Selby – Team Virginia
Brecken Franklin – Team Texas
Marek Fleming – Team Texas
Cara Heisterkamp – Team Ohio
Charlie Mort – Team Ohio
Jack Birdwell – Team Minnesota
Parker Sands – Team Minnesota
Nicolas Wright – Team Louisiana
Grant Reagan – Team Louisiana
Andrew Lim – Team Illinois
Aidan Gutierrez – Team Illinois
Billy Abdow – Team Georgia
Sahish Reddy – Team Georgia
Michael Maslanka – Team Delaware
Matthew Normand – Team Delaware
Brandon Frye – Team Connecticut
Alexander Halpert – Team Connecticut
Jasmine Kahler – Team California
Matthew Broder – Team California
Peyton Robinson – Team Arkansas
Adam Squires – Team Arkansas
The chipping contest was one of five stations at the Skills Challenge. (Photo by Darren Carroll/PGA of America)
Trading golf balls for bags at the annual cornhole tournament. (Photo by Darren Carroll/PGA of America)
The night concluded with a video of PGA Jr. League Ambassadors sharing their words of congratulations and encouragement to the Championship teams. Kids were both surprised and excited to see Golden State Warriors All-Star Steph Curry and FIFA Women’s World Cup Champion Alex Morgan appear on screen in PGA Jr. League jerseys! Curry and Morgan were named the newest PGA Jr. League Ambassadors just before the start of the event.