Riverton resident featured on No. 3 seeded Team Utah’s PGA Jr. ChampionshipNov 09, 2021 11:44AM ● By JJ Thomson
By JJ Thomson | [email protected]
One appearance was all it took for Team Utah to win their first National Car Rental PGA Jr. League Championship. Team Utah, consisting of the top eight 11–14-year-olds from the state, took their No. 3 seed into the tough weekend tournament, where they defeated Team Connecticut 7.4-4.5 to win the title; Team Oklahoma (whom they beat that very morning in order to take on Connecticut) defeated Team Florida 7.5-4.5 to capture third place. Both Utah and Florida made their debuts at this event and carried two of the top four seeds in the tournament. One of the junior golfers, 14-year-old Jaxon Erickson, is a Riverton resident and teamed with Jordan Ofahengaue, 11, from Lehi. The duo swung the match in Utah's’ favor on the par-3 16th hole, when Ofahengaue rolled in a 15-footer to put them one up. The championship started to look a little out of reach after Connecticut took the opening match of the finals, but fortunately, Utah would win the remainder to seal the deal.
Utah Pro Golfer Tony Finau, who is cousins with Ofahengaue’s father, Kelepi, cheered on his “nephew” during the match. “My man Jordan balled out to help Utah win! Proud of him,” Finau tweeted.
When the ball of Austin Shelley, 13, from Salt Lake City, had found the water outside of the green, all hope may have seemed lost. That is until Ryder Huish from Highland stepped up to the fairway on the 18th hole. Huish, and the rest of Team Utah, needed perfection in order to capture the title, and that is exactly what Huish gave them. With his 5-iron in hand, and 180 yards away from a title, Huish stepped up and hit the ball with everything he had. The ball kept carrying and carrying until it finally came to rest within 10 feet of the pin. A couple of minutes later, they were able to birdie on the 18th to seize the victory.
“When I saw Austin’s ball in the water, I cried inside,” Huish, 11, joked. “I said, ‘I have to hit a good shot here or it’s over.’ I pulled out my 5-iron, I felt confident, and I executed well.”
Utah Captain Tele Wightman, PGA, stated after the match, “Oh my goodness, it was just amazing. You’ve got Oklahoma, Florida, Connecticut … such good teams, but we really believed in ourselves and felt like we had a team that could get it done. Then you are watching it and you think, this could be happening. The shots they pulled off towards the end, it’s amazing.”
After the match Wightman said “I feel really good, I feel like, I think it is crazy because there is like 64,000 kids, and 10 of us (including their coaches) are all here, and we won. So that is really crazy.”
The National Car Rental PGA Jr. League Championship was held in Scottsdale. Arizona at the Grayhawk Golf Club. This was the ninth PGA Jr. league tournament, after vacating the 2020 event due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Grayhawk has hosted the event since 2016, and will also host the 2022 event before a new venue is selected.