Later this month, three local high school golfers are traveling to Pasadena, Calif., to represent Arizona in the Junior America’s Cup.
Ironwood Ridge High School standouts Ben Esparza and Alex McMahon and Salpointe Catholic High School student Matt McClure are joining up with Garrett Moss of Gilbert, forming Arizona’s 16-18-year-old boys team at the Annandale Golf Club.
For Esparza and McClure, this will be their second visit to play in the Junior America’s Cup. Both qualified last year to play in the competition, held in Washington.
This is McMahon’s first time going.
“It’s exciting. I didn’t really know about the whole point system and making this team before I moved here to Arizona,” McMahon said. “I came out and played a couple tournaments and kind of found myself on the team. So, it worked out kind of nice. It should be fun in LA.”
The fact three of Arizona’s four 16-18-year-olds are from greater Tucson isn’t lost on Matt’s father, Bob McClure.
“We’ve been competing against Phoenix, and we’ve watched it for so long,” Bob McClure said. “We haven’t been able to compete. But it’s turning. We’ve watched them grow.”
The three Northwest golfers are familiar with one another, and are friends.
“We are usually at the junior golf programs just traveling with our parents,” Esparza said. “This time we get to go as a team. We aren’t competing against each other, we’re working together to achieve a common goal.”
That common goal is to defeat 16 other teams from Montana, Wyoming, Hawaii and many other states in the West, along with a team from Canada and two teams from Mexico.
Each of the players wants to win the competition, and have a good experience along the way. McMahon is looking forward to getting to travel and play on a decent course, but to also play some of the best competitors in the West.
During the Tucson City Junior Championship, Esparza finished first at seven under par, followed by McMahon in second at five under and McClure tied for fourth at four under. With those results, each earned personal points toward an invitation to the America’s Cup.
“We have all played golf well and proved ourselves around the state, but we want to prove ourselves on more of a national stage,” McMahon said. “I think if we all play to our abilities, we should have success.”
The guys think last year’s Arizona team didn’t play as well as expected, finishing ninth overall. They are looking for redemption.
The competition, which spans four days – one practice round and three event rounds – is tallied with the best three scores of the four teammates. The highest score is dropped. At the end of the competition, the scores are totaled and awards go to both the winning team and the player with the lowest score. The individual winner receives the Sally Pini Memorial Medal. The medal is named after the America’s Cup lost its long-time executive director, Sally Pini, in November of 2004. The award has been given to the top player since 2006.
OV junior golf championships Aug. 1-2 at club
Entries are open now for the fourth annual Oro Valley Junior Golf Championship, to be held Aug. 1-2 at the Oro Valley Country Club.
Young players ages 9-17 are invited to compete and play the private course, according to Mike Wilson.
“They’ve been very generous to make their site available,” said Wilson, a member of the sponsoring Oro Valley Optimists Club. “It’s fantastic. I hope we can get some young people to play.”
The tournament is conducted by the Southern Arizona Junior Golf Association. For a $50 entry fee, players get two rounds of golf and lunch at the awards event.
Trophies go to the top players in five divisions for both boys and girls – ages 9-10, 11-12, 13-14, 15-17, and championship.
Deadline for entries is Monday, July 20. To register, people may go to www.sajga.org, or call Mike Wilson at 591-9640.