Local junior golfers were treated to a special surprise for the final tournament of the Truckee Tahoe Junior Golf Tour (TTJGT).
At the Tour Championship held at Gray's Crossing last week, the greatest female golfer of all time, Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam, was on hand to hand out awards and take pictures with the juniors.
Sorenstam, winner of 72 LPGA tournaments, 10 major championships, 11 tournaments in one year, eight ESPYs and countless other accolades, graciously handed out trophies and posed very patiently to the delight of everyone in attendance.
The entire field of 37 players, family, friends and a few lucky innocent bystanders were treated to a very intimate surprise as everyone packed into PJ's Grill for the rain-affected ceremony as it poured outside.
The Championship became a rain-shortened event as flash floods ran through the golf course. Scoring was based on the number of holes played before the storm halted play. Prizes were awarded for high finishes at Gray's Crossing as well as to the season-long Cup winners.
Players received points for each top-five finish throughout the year, with Gray's Crossing being a double-point event. This made for an exciting finis, especially in the Boys' 10-11 age group, where Dylan Heins was able to take advantage of season-long leader Isaaz Mozen's absence to win the Cup by a half point with a first-place finish.
In the Girls' 8-9 division, Haley McCormick and her sister Kenzie, playing out of Tahoe Donner, finished first and second while Whitney Wingard and Ryan Flynn tied for third. Lauren Hickam edged out Montana Murphy and Jillian Ferre, who tied for second just two strokes back.
The larger-participant age groups were awarded medals to fifth place for the Championship, which was even more special with Sorenstam handing them their awards.
In the Boys' 8-9 division, Patrick Volkman edged out Jackson Brown by one stroke for first place in what turned out to be a great back-and-forth battle all season for first-place finishes. Many of the 8-9-year-olds improved drastically this year, led by Gabriel Smith who came in fifth. Jake Tedsen and Ethan Flynn placed third and fourth, respectively.
The Boys' 10-11 division was won by three strokes by Dylan Heins over Dan Forrest. Heins knew if he could win he could leapfrog to first place for the Cup, and he did. Zarek Livak came in third and Matthew Volkman recorded a solid fourth-place finish. Drew Wingard showed steady improvement again and won another medal with a fifth place.
Among the 12-13 Boys, Quinn Earley has proven to be the Sorenstam of the TTJGT with five victories in five events. He won the last event by six strokes. Those pursuing Earley have shown the most improvement of all the age groups, as they reduced the margin of victory with each event.
Jayden Commendatore had his strongest finish of the year in the biggest event, finishing second. Airon Yarbrough, who has led the pursuit all year long with his steady play, placed third and is the early favorite to give Earley the strongest challenge next season (Yarbrough is the one you will see carrying his golf clubs as he walks a mile to the golf course which is always the truest sign of a dedicated player).
Sam Willis and Will Belden tied for fourth in the last event, which was fitting for the two players who set the record for most rounds played and played together at Ponderosa Golf Course this summer. Also watch out for Ian Schmidig as the dark horse next season, as he posted the largest improvement in scores and finished just out of the medals.
In the older age groups, Peter McDowell led the way in the 14-15 division and won the Cup for that age group as well. Zack Kirby, 16, showed the most resilience and potential in the 16-17 age group. He won the Cup going away — and after having only played golf for five months. Kirby plays out of Old Brockway in the summer but will be taking the title back to his home in New Jersey.
For results from the season, pictures and for more information about the Truckee Tahoe Junior Golf Tour, visit www.ttjgt.com.