North Carolina prevails over California 7 ½  to 4 ½ to win the title; Team Florida captures 3rd place over Team Illinois 8 ½ to 3 ½ 

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (Oct. 9, 2022) – The 2022 National Car Rental PGA Jr. League Championship trophy is going to Carolina for the very first time.

Before a nationally televised audience on ESPNU, No. 2 seed Team North Carolina (Charlotte) defeated No. 4 seed Team California (Encinitas) 7 ½ to 4 ½ in the match-play championship final on Sunday at breathtaking Grayhawk Golf Course.

While North Carolina celebrated its first-ever Championship on the closing hole with a water bottle shower on a sun-soaked day in the Sonoran Desert, it was the clutch performance of John John Santaspago, 13, of Charlotte, and partner Miles Russell, 13, of Pinehurst, on their match’s penultimate hole that clinched the national title.

Opting for an uphill chip on No. 17 (eighth of nine holes played) versus a 60-foot downhill putt after Santaspago drove the green—and then some—on the 322-yard, par 4, the pair displayed a high level of course management.

“We thought with the wedge shot we had, we could put that closer than the putt,” Russell said. “With the putt, the best we could have done was 10 feet at best coming down that mound. The wedge shot was pretty simple.”

Next, a simple three-footer by Santaspago and a make-or-break missed putt by California’s Kenyon Kahler, 13, and Mia Clausen, 12, both of Carlsbad, was enough for North Carolina to soon enjoy a SportsCenter celebration moment with ESPN’s Michael Collins.

After just missing the top four last year, North Carolina did more than just join the party on Sunday.

“We’ve been here a couple of times before and came up short, but I felt like I had eight [players] who could do it this time,” said North Carolina Coach Brent Reneau, PGA. “These eight individual golfers came as a group, played strong, so they were my Great Eight, and took me over the top, and got us to the finish line.”

Despite the loss, Team California Coach John Mason, PGA, whose team hoisted the trophy in 2018 and 2015, was proud of his kids’ valiant effort.

“I’d like to congratulate the North Carolina team. They are a phenomenal team,” said Mason. “Our kids, a scrappy little team, hung in there. No one really had a lot of expectations, and they just didn’t give up. I’m very proud of this team; they played their hearts out.”


North Carolina and California advanced to the Championship match after Sunday morning’s riveting semifinals.

Close calls and upsets were the recurring theme. The most scintillating morning matchup featured North Carolina vs. No. 3 seed Team Florida (Orlando), which ended at 6-6 and came down to the first scorecard tiebreaker of holes won. A single-hole advantage helped North Carolina advance to the championship match, 11 holes to Florida’s 10.

“That was a nailbiter,” explained Reneau. “That team from Florida was tough, they sharpened us, and we came [to the finals] with California and kept pushing forward and found our stride.”

In the other semifinal, two-time Champions Team California narrowly defeated top-seeded Team Illinois (Lemont) 6 ½ to 5 ½.

It was the California dynamic duo of 13-year-olds Anna Fang, of San Diego, and Kaden Chang, of Carlsbad, who clinched a spot in the Championship final, accentuated on Hole No. 18 with a dramatic chip shot from 15-yards off the green. The shot landed five feet short of the green and eventually rolled two feet away, essentially sealing California’s berth into the Championship match.

“My partner actually pointed out a great spot to land the ball,” added Fang. “I was questioning it at first, but as soon as I hit it, I knew it was the right place to land it. It trickled down perfectly.”


With blue ribbons on their hats and thoughts for those impacted by Hurricane Ian, Team Florida took care of business in the third place match Sunday afternoon, defeating Team Illinois 8 ½ to 3 ½.

“We were pumped to take third,” said Team Florida Coach Cori McAuliffe. “Last year, we took fourth, and we were disappointed with that. We finished better than we did last year, and that’s the plan to get better and better every year.”

The team bounced back quickly after the heartbreak of the semifinal.

“This morning’s match is going to sting for a while,” she continued. “They have had an unforgettable experience, we’re very fortunate that all but two of our players will have another opportunity to do this again.”

While Team Illinois finished in 4th place, Coach Kevin Weeks, PGA, said the lessons his players learn through PGA Jr. League were bigger than a trophy or a title.

“It’s about competing and learning the game of a lifetime. Some of them will take it on, I’ve had a kid [on my team] who started golf with PGA Jr. League. He just won a college tournament two weeks ago. He’s ranked in the top 10 in the NCAA.”

With a record 70,000 boys and girls playing PGA Jr. League, it has attracted national attention. Defending Champion Team Utah (Lehi) featured both PGA Tour star Tony Finau’s son, Jraice, 10, and nephew, Jordan Ofahengaue, 12. Utah finished in 5th place.

“This is a great event,” said Finau, who has played on two Ryder Cup Teams.  “I was really blown away by the production and presentation of it all. This is something that my son will definitely play in the future, and hopefully, we will have that opportunity next year!”

For the rest of the 12-team field, Team Texas (Farmers Branch) finished in the 6th spot. Team Oklahoma (Broken Arrow) came in 7th place, followed in order by Team Minnesota (Blaine)Team Connecticut (Torrington)Team New Jersey (Haworth)Team Pennsylvania (West Mifflin) and Team New York (Saratoga Springs).

Led by PGA Member Joe Shershonovich, Grayhawk Golf Club has hosted the PGA Jr. League Championship since 2016. Next year, the event will shift to Fields Ranch at PGA Frisco in Frisco, Texas, site of the new “Home of the PGA of America.” The PGA presented to Grayhawk a replica PGA Jr. League Championship Trophy and a signed pin flag in appreciation for everything that Grayhawk has done to elevate the PGA Jr. League Championship.

While next year the setting will shift from the mountains of Arizona to the rolling hills of North Texas, the 2022 title will always remain in the mind of Team North Carolina.

Champion: Team North Carolina (Charlotte)
Runner-up: Team California (Encinitas)
3rd place: Team Florida (Orlando)
4th place: Team Illinois (Lemont)
5th place: Team Utah (Lehi)
6th place: Team Texas (Farmers Branch)
7th place: Team Oklahoma (Broken Arrow)
8th place: Team Minnesota (Blaine)
9th place: Team Connecticut (Torrington)
10th place: Team New Jersey (Haworth)
11th place: Team Pennsylvania (West Mifflin)
12th place: Team New York (Saratoga Springs)


2022 | Champion: North Carolina (Charlotte) | Runner-up: California (Encinitas)
Grayhawk Golf Club (Scottsdale, Ariz.)

2021 | Champion: Utah (Lehi) | Runner-up: Connecticut (Torrington)
Grayhawk Golf Club (Scottsdale, Ariz.)

2020 | Event canceled due to pandemic

2019 | Champion: Georgia (Duluth) | Runner-up: Texas (Montgomery)
Grayhawk Golf Club (Scottsdale, Ariz.)

2018 | Champion: California (Encinitas/San Diego) | Runner-up: Minnesota (Blaine)
Grayhawk Golf Club (Scottsdale, Ariz.)

2017 | Champion: Georgia (Duluth) | Runner-up: New Jersey (Hillsborough)
Grayhawk Golf Club (Scottsdale, Ariz.)

2016 | Champion: California (Livermore) | Runner-up: Georgia (Alpharetta)
Grayhawk Golf Club (Scottsdale, Ariz.)

2015 | Champion: California (Encinitas/San Diego) | Runner-up: Georgia (Alpharetta)
Disney’s Palm Course (Lake Buena Vista, Fla.)

2014 | Champion: California (San Ramon) | Runner-up: Georgia (Dacula)
TPC Sugarloaf (Duluth, Ga.)

2013 | Champion: Georgia (Atlanta) | Runner-up: California (Livermore)
TPC Sugarloaf (Duluth, Ga.)

2012 | Champion: California (San Francisco) | Runner-up: Georgia (Atlanta)
Cog Hill Golf & Country Club (Lemont, Ill.)


Players on the eight teams competing in the PGA Jr. League Championship who did not qualify for the semifinals were given the opportunity to participate in the Raptor Shootout, a two-person scramble. Three teams shot 31, with Team Minnesota’s Ryder Haskins, 12, of Minnetrista, Minnesota and Nicholas Melvin, 12, of Forest Lake, Minnesota, winning in a scorecard playoff. Team Utah’s Jraice Finau, 10, of Lehi, Utah, and Blake Brown, 12, of Highland, Utah, shared second place with Team Connecticut’s Luke Hoglund, 13, of Fairfield, Connecticut, and Rocco Capalbo, 13, of Westerly, Rhode Island.

Saturday morning, 30 students, their parents, and even an adult interested in a career change, experienced an inside look at the various career opportunities within the golf industry. They embarked on a personalized tour of the tournament meeting key individuals involved in the Championship along the way, including PGA Secretary Don Rea, Jr., PGA; PGA of America Director of Competition Laura Frick, PGA; PGA Career Services Recruiting Specialist Caleb Hung, PGA; and PGA of America Career Services Recruiting Specialist Dylan Gladney. Citing the over $84 billion golf industry and its more than 2 million jobs, Rea challenged attendees to look even further than the wide variety of jobs currently available. For a full story on the Career Exploration event, click here.

PGA Secretary and Mesa, Arizona resident Don Rea Jr., PGA, had some fun with his starter duties during the stroke play rounds, when he let 8-year-old Jonathan Castellanos take over the microphone on the first tee to announce his brothers, Florida teammates 11-year-old Jeremy and 13-year-old Joshua Castellanos. Click here to see the photo.

PGA Honorary President Suzy Whaley has traveled in year’s past to the National Car Rental PGA Jr. League Championship as a Coach, and most recently as an on-air talent for ESPN’s family of networks. The President of Golf Nation and PGA Director of Instruction at The Country Club of Mirasol in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, Whaley took a moment from her broadcasting duties to meet with Team Florida (Orlando), who are wearing blue ribbons to raise awareness for Hurricane Ian relief awareness and encouraging viewers to donate to the American Red CrossClick here to see the photo.

The Championship kicked off with the Skills Challenge Thursday (Oct. 6), during which players rotated through fun stations involving both golf and non-golf activities. Winners included:

  • Team Illinois – Skills Challenge Champions
  • Davis Wotnosky, Team North Carolina – Boys Square Tees Longest Drive – 290 Yards
  • Hayden Knapp, Team New York – Girls Circle Tees Longest Drive – 227 Yards
  • Porter Hart, Team Oklahoma – Boys Circle Tees Longest Drive – 241 Yards
  • Evyn Cannon, Team Oklahoma – Highlight Award – Closest to the Hole Station Performance

Special guests at the National Car Rental Welcome Party on Thursday (Oct. 6) included a panel moderated by ESPN’s Michael Collins and CBS’ Colt Knost with Team Utah dad and two-time U.S. Ryder Cup member Tony Finau; PGA Jr. League Ambassador and 2014 U.S. Women’s Open Champion Michelle Wie West; and World Amateur No. 1 and 2022 NCAA Division I Champion Rose Zhang.