Octobeer 19, 2019

Southern California Junior Golf Reunion







In less than a month, I will be attending a Southern California Junior Golf Association reunion. Those invited played junior golf in southern California between 1960 and 1967. Looking at the list of former junior golfers that I played with, I was amazed at the accomplishments that this group of golfers has achieved. The achievements are too many to list, but they include PGA winners, Senior PGA winners, USGA Amateur titles, two NCAA individual champions, two USGA Junior Champions, International Professional and Amateur titles, numerous state Professional and Amateur wins, and many colligate All-Americans. Most attended and played golf in college with a large percentage earning golf scholarships. I counted fifteen former juniors that played at one time on the PGA Tour and others that made golf their life profession. Many others choose different paths after college and became successful businessmen and entrepreneurs. One of the attendees has dubbed this as the Golden Age of junior golf in California. It will be great fun getting together and sharing old stories and catching up.

I was seven when my family moved to southern California. One of the first things my father did was join Candlewood Country Club in Whittier. Every weekend, I would go with my father at seven in morning and not get back to Long Beach until dark. Candlewood had a ton of junior golfers, so we were always playing golf, putting of nickels, hitting balls, or swimming in the club's large pool. The older kids were good golfers and it was a goal of mine to be as good as them. I started playing in junior golf tournaments when I was nine. When I was eleven, my mother and two other mothers formed a group that would transport Bob Carson, Kemp Richardson and others to junior golf events all over southern California in the summer. Most of the tournaments were one day events. By the time I was in college, I had played almost all of the good golf courses in the area.

At the time that I was growing up, I didn't realize the great opportunity and competition that I was being exposed to in my area. At Candlewood in my age bracket, we produced four players that went on to play on the PGA Tour and one junior, Greg McHatton that won the USGA Junior Championship. In my hometown of Long Beach, I was friends with and competed against Terry Small (NCAA champion), Kemp Richardson (two time USGA Senior Amateur Champion, etc.), Terry Hartshorn (UCLA All-American), and Roger Cleveland (yes, that Roger Cleveland, founder of Cleveland Golf Company and head club designer for Callaway). The standard was high, but at the time you didn't know that. They were friends that also were good golfers and you wanted to beat them. The players in southern California set a standard, at the time you didn't know the bar was that high, but that was the goal to reach if you wanted to compete and be accepted.

Tom Kite once asked Harvey Penick (Hall of Fame teacher and Kite's coach), what his best advice was when he first went out on the PGA Tour. Penick told him to "always have dinner with good putters." In other words, hang out with the best, play golf with the best, and don't hang around negative thinkers. For my readers who are in differing states of enjoyment with golf. Know what you want from you golf game. Is it social, physical exercise, enjoying the environment, or competition? Then seek out the playing companions that best bring out your enjoyment. If it's getting better, play with the best players that are available.

There will be countless stories that I will be revisiting in a few weeks. Hope you will be interested in my reliving these past experiences.


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