November 19, 2019

Southern California Junior Golf Reunion

After a fun four-man team event at San Clemente Golf Club the group of 50 or more former junior golfers gathered for dinner and storytelling and to raise funds for Junior Golf in southern California and reminisce. The event was the brain child of Rick Talt, Tom Sargent, and Bill Brask and was organized and run by the Southern California PGA. Rick contacted over 80 former players that played in junior tournaments in the early 1960's. All were excited that something like this was thought of and hoped we would do future events. Rick emceed the event and read off a list of accomplishments that was a full two pages long. The list included PGA winners, PGA Champions Tour winners, USGA winners, International winners both amateur and professional, numerous state titles and honors both in golf and in business. That was followed by storytelling of individual junior experiences and of their successes in golf after junior golf.

I talked briefly about what the Southern California Junior Golf Association (SCJGA) did for me and how it aided everyone in attendance this night. I played all over southern California since I was eleven years old at the best golf courses two to three times a week during the summer in tournaments that cost 1 or 2 dollars each. What I didn't know was that I was playing against some of the best junior golfers in the country. In order to compete and win a trophy my game had to be raised. Fortunately I was capable and motivated to put the time and effort to improve. It was a challenge, but one that was fun and never seemed like work. I thanked my fellow former juniors on their excellence that raised the bar for everyone that ultimately lead to me receiving a golf scholarship to be best golf school in California, the University of Southern California. Finally, I talked of my fifteen years on the Board of Directors of the Colorado Junior Golf Association and seven years as President. I modeled my efforts for junior golf in Colorado on my experiences in California and inspiration from Bill Bryant and Ralph Miller who spearheaded the junior program. In this small way, I hope I was able to repay a bit of what I got from the SCJGA.

But I didn't get better in a vacuum; I had a lot of help. My parents supported my interest in golf. My mother, along with two other mothers, would alternate driving us kids to the various tournaments no matter how far. My family belonged to Candlewood Country Club and I spent almost every Saturday and Sunday at the course from sunup to sundown. The club's junior golf program had over forty juniors that were active serious golfers. I was either playing golf with them, putting for nickels on the putting green, or chipping and pitching for money. If not doing something with golf, we were in the pool. John Jacobs (PGA Tour, Senior major winner), Rick Talt, (Arizona State, PGA Tour, Senior Tour), Gregg McHatton (USC, USGA Junior Champion), Jack Spradlin (San Diego State, PGA Tour and Senior Tour) are a few of the juniors that grew up with at Candlewood. In Long Beach, were I lived, I was friends with Kemp Richardson (USC all-american, USGA Senior Amateur twice, British Senior Amateur twice), Terry Small (San Jose State all-american, NCAA champ, PGA Tour, California State Open twice), Terry Hartshorn (UCLA all-american), Roger Cleveland (USC, Cleveland Golf Company). That's not counting my two excellent caliber high school teammates; Hank Rams (Cal State Fullerton), Dick Mortenson (Cal State LA), who along with Kemp Richardson comprised our high school team that won our school's first CIF title (equivalent of a state title). With getting to play with these friends and competitors on a regular basis, who could not help get better.

The Southern California PGA Section has taken over the running of junior golf in southern California and has done an amazing job. They now run 280 tournaments a year and have over 3,000 participants and are continuing to expand. Tom Sargent is the Chairman of the Junior Golf Advisory Committee. He outlined their goal of reaching 5,000 young golfers in the future. The money raised from our event and the silent auction all went to further junior golf.

Golf is said to be a game of a lifetime. Many extremely good junior golfers from a past era played yesterday. Some are in relatively good shape, some have had various medical issues, but even though we aren't the "great" golfers that we were in the past, we are still playing golf. Golf was a great activity in our youth, and fortunately most of us are still enjoying it. Golf brought us together as kids and friendships were formed. Time hadn't eroded the friendships and we just picked up from where we left off. Golf and friendship is for a lifetime.

Earl Svenningsen 1963

Earl Svenningsen ,Kemp Richardson, Hank Rams 2019 - High School teammates and still friends


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