MALAGA — The subregionals and regionals for the PGA Junior League Golf were held at Three Lakes Golf Course last Sunday. Teams from both Highlander and Three Lakes were in action.
The PGA Junior League is a national program to introduce young people to golf. Highlander fielded a team for the first time this year, drawing 20 kids. Three Lakes and the Wenatchee Country Club started the league locally four years ago.
Three Lakes was hosting the “Fab Four Playoffs” for the third consecutive year. Both Highlander and Three Lakes advanced in the playoffs with victories in the first round. Three Lakes faced the Jeff Bender Golf Academy or JBGA in the subregionals on Sunday.
Three Lakes won 8.5 to 3.5 points. Players play nine holes, with each three holes worth one point, so there are three points possible per match.
“That was a good win especially just the score itself. It was a pretty dominating match. We hadn’t played that team before,” said Robbie Hendrickson, Three Lakes general manager and head PGA professional. “We had two matches that were three-point sweeps.”
It was a surprising result, Hendrickson said, because JBGA had some strong players in their first couple pairings. He felt like they had some home course advantage. Plus, they had some extra practices leading up to the match.
The Highlander team played Meadow Springs in the subregionals and lost 10-2.
“On that team, they have 60 plus kids in their program. They have a lot of good kids to pull from. A lot of kids who’ve played two, three or four seasons,” said Highland Pro Mark Babst. “They played really well. Our team was one stroke or two behind them each hole. We put up a good fight against them but they had some really good kids. It was impressive to watch.”
Babst said it showed his team what they could be two or three seasons down the road. He said some of the Meadow Springs players were making natural birdies.
“Looking at the scores, they were just one or two strokes different. They tie a couple holes, then lose and hole, so they lose the flag,” Babst said. “It was close, not as close with the flags. Our kids played really good. A lot of them had not played Three Lakes. That course can be tough with the green complexes and elevation changes.”
Babst said his team battled, played well and had a good time, which is all that matters. He’s taking nothing but positives from their first season in the PGA Junior League.
“It was beyond our expectations. All seemed to really enjoy it. I think it will be bigger and better next year. That is my plan. We want to continue to keep growing. Maybe not as big as the Tri-Cities team, but 20-30 is really good,” Babst said.
Three Lakes played Meadow Springs for the regional championship. MS had another dominating win, 10.5 to 1.5. Hendrickson said MS pretty much dominated.
“I would say the match was a lot closer than the scorecard. We were losing holes by one shot, a par to a birdie. We weren’t losing because we were making double bogey,” Hendrickson said. “That is tough team to beat. I was super proud of our kids.”
Three Lakes got off to a good start as their best team came back with the first point. That was promising, Hendrickson said.
“We might have been at a disadvantage in the second match, just because they had more 12 and 13 year olds,” Hendrickson said. “Most of their team was comprised of 12 and 13 year olds. We have a few 12 and 13 year olds, but we also have 10, 11 and 9 year old players.”
Meadow Springs, from the Tri-Cities, has a team that has advanced in the playoffs before, so they had the playoff experience. They move onto section championships in Oregon. Hendrickson said they lost to a better team but they gave them a good match.
He feels the future is bright for his young team.
“We have a young team, so there are a lot of returners. We realize we have to get better around the greens, chipping and putting. Tee to green, we matched those guys shot for shot. They just beat us around the greens,” Hendrickson said.