Virgen: Sandia Junior PGA team's stirring run bodes well for future of local golf - Albuquerque Journal

Virgen: Sandia Junior PGA team’s stirring run bodes well for future of local golf

The Sandia Junior PGA League 13-and-under team recently reached a regional final in Texas. In front, Captain Nick Knee takes a selfie with his team. Behind him from left is Ethan Long and Nixon Knee. Behind Ethan from left, Isaiah Schmedes, Charlie Muttitt, Thomas Whitten, Lukas Strassner, Colin Orell and Adelyn Haas. (Courtesy of Nick Knee)

It’s best to remember the following names of junior golfers because they’re on the path to becoming high-level players who could eventually gain NCAA Division I opportunities.

They are 13-year-old Adelyn Haas; 12-year-olds Charlie Muttitt, Colin Orell, Isaiah Schmedes, Lukas Strassner; 11-year-olds Nixon Knee, Thomas Whitten; and 10-year-old Ethan Long.

They made up the team, the Sandia Golf Club 13-and-under All-Stars, that reached the National Car Rental PGA Jr. League Regional title match on Sept. 11 at Firewheel Golf Park in Garland, Texas. The Sandia All-Stars came up just shy, edged by Brookhaven of Dallas, one level from advancing to the PGA Jr. League national championship, which consists of 12 teams competing at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz., Oct. 6-9. That event will be broadcast live on select ESPN networks.

“It was tough for a lot of them,” said Nick Knee, the PGA coach and a junior golf instructor at Sandia Golf Club. “Nine holes away from advancing to the national championship for a team from New Mexico is pretty dang special. I think they kind of knew what was at stake. I think they took it hard, but the game of golf, you lose more than you win. We talked about how this drives us to practice a little bit more, and let it be the reason we turn the experience into something we can build on next year.”

The Sandia All-Stars include three local pros’ sons, as Nick Knee, Sandia pro Matthew Long and Los Altos Golf Course pro David Muttitt have their boys on the team.

The eight were selected from a group of 72 young players within the junior league at Sandia Golf Club. Sandia actually sent two teams to the regionals, 16 juniors.

“Well, for one, they come from great families,” Nick Knee said of why the Sandia All-Stars performed so well Sept. 9-11. “And, two, they love competition.”

Whitten, who will be a sixth-grader at Albuquerque Academy, won the Notah Begay III Junior Golf New Mexico Regional last month at Twin Warriors Golf Club. He shot 1-over 145 (72-73) to win the boys 10-11 title. He’ll compete in Begay’s Junior Boys Golf National Championship at Koasati Pines at Coushatta in Kinder, Louisiana, Nov. 7-9.

Haas will soon be competing for a spot on the Albuquerque Academy girls golf team.

Whitten and Orell are known to motivate each other as they often go back and forth in competition, an example of the team dynamic, Knee said.

Ethan Long is from Rio Rancho and the rest of the juniors are from Albuquerque – except for Schmedes, who is from Tijeras.

“Isaiah Schmedes is a heckuva golfer,” Nick Knee said. “I think the future is bright for golf locally. We’re already seeing the wave that’s coming up, it’s getting stronger with each graduating class. It’s been fun to see how it pans out. I think it’s going to be hopefully something that we look back on that we’re proud of that we helped usher another wave.”

NOTAH WINS: Captain Notah Begay III and the United States team won the 2022 Junior Presidents Cup, 13-11, Tuesday at Myers Park Country Club in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The Junior Presidents Cup is a two-day, team match-play competition featuring 24 of the world’s top junior boys 19 years old and younger – 12 from the United States and 12 from around the world, excluding Europe – that takes place just days before the start of the biennial Presidents Cup.

“I’m just so excited for the 12 players on my team,” Begay told amateurgolf.com. “They did such a wonderful job to come together on such a great golf course at Myers Park Country Club and it came down to the last couple matches, which is what you want. To come out on top is something really special and something we will be celebrating for the rest of the afternoon.”

Begay is scheduled to make his PGA Tour Champions debut at the Constellation Furyk & Friends event Oct. 7-9 at Timuquana Country Club in Jacksonville, Florida.

QUINN THE CORNHUSKER: Nebraska freshman Quinn Yost, a former Piedra Vista High standout, will no doubt be excited to compete in the Tucker Intercollegiate at UNM Championship Golf Course, Friday and Saturday. Yost, a Class 5A state champion as a junior, has quickly become a key scorer for the Cornhuskers.

He helped Nebraska finish fourth at the Badger Invitational in Madison, Wisconsin to open the season Sept. 11-13. Yost shot 3-under 69 in the final round at University Ridge Golf Course in Verona. He finished tied for 20th at 1-under 143.

Yost was featured in the Journal in June about wanting to play for UNM but the circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic ultimately changed his path to play for Nebraska.

New Mexico State, with defending champion Aidan Thomas, will also be in the Tucker, along with BYU, Colorado, Denver, Hawaii, Loyola Marymount, North Texas, Northern Illinois, San Francisco, San Diego, San Diego State, TCU, UNLV, Utah Tech, UTEP, UTSA and Wyoming.

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