AMERICAN CANYON — Jasper Rives was searching for a golf tournament to play in during his first trip to California.
Rives, a very talented 15-year-old junior player from Grimaud, France, found one in the Napa Valley, right in the middle of January.
He began play Saturday in the Napa Valley Junior Open, a Hurricane Junior Golf Tour event, by shooting an even-par 72 at Chardonnay Golf Club & Vineyards. Rives had a six-shot lead going into the second and final round of the two-day, 36-hole tournament.
Battling very tough conditions, with cold winds, temperatures in only the mid to high 40s and partly cloudy skies, Rives went out and shot a very respectable 77 on Sunday and won the Tiger Woods-Boys 16-18 Division. He maintained the pace that he had going the first day and rolled to an eight-shot victory.
“I like this kind of course. It’s very wide and long,” said Rives, who is home schooled and is on a vacation through early March. “I’m very happy and excited.
“The conditions were really hard, a lot harder than (Saturday). So it was more like fighting that. Yes, it was two very different days.
“I was not thinking too much and just going shot after shot. It was a really good tournament on a very nice course. I think I had good game. I’m happy.”
The Napa Valley Junior Open drew a field of 20 players. There were four age groups, with plaques and medals presented to the top-3 placers in each division.
Chardonnay, a par-72 semi-private course designed by Algie Pulley, was set up at 6,607 yards for the 14-15 and 16-18 boys divisions, and at 5,604 yards for the boys 11-13 and girls 14-18 divisions.
The Hurricane Junior Golf Tour, based in Orlando, Florida, was founded in 2007, “with the intention of providing junior golfers between the ages of 8-18 an opportunity to play exceptional courses in a competitive environment,” according to its website, hjgt.org. “The mission of the Hurricane Junior Golf Tour is to accommodate the ladies and gentlemen of junior golf with an extraordinary experience in a competitive environment. The tour’s vision is to provide superb hospitality and make every event a memorable one.”
Hurricane Junior Golf Tour events are open to both boys and girls. The HJGT offers six divisions and this year will conduct tournaments in 26 other states –Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Washington.
Players earn points throughout the season towards year-end honors beginning Dec. 31, 2019, according to the organization’s website.
“We put on a lot of tournaments and we’ve expanded into more and more states,” said Tyler Walrath, the tournament director for the Napa Valley Junior Open, who is from Philadelphia. “We’ve grown a lot out here in Northern California. We’ve started having a lot more tournaments out here. We have a great turnout every single time we come out here.
“The junior golf out here in California is just like it is in Florida. It’s very, very impactful. There’s a lot of kids that get to play every single weekend. We’ve had a lot of fun coming out here.”
The winds and cold temperatures made for difficult scoring conditions at Chardonnay, a championship course that has a combination of six par-3s, six par-4s and six par-5s, with several holes offering elevated tees with picturesque views of the area. Chardonnay has hosted U.S. Open local qualifiers, PGA Tour qualifying events, and U.S. Amateur qualifying over the years.
“For the weather that we’ve had, I feel like we’ve had some good scores out there,” Walrath said. “These kids just kind of strapped up and went out here and no complaints at all. Every single time that I’m asking them how they’re doing, they’ve got a smile on their faces. They took it on the chin, but they had a great time.”
One of the biggest smiles of the day belonged to Rives, who plays out of Golf De Beauvallon in Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur, France. Prior to the final round, Rives’ coach, Antoine Roux told him to “play with pleasure” and to also “enjoy your game.”
“He’s really a good driver,” said Roux, who is also from France. “It’s really important for him to drive it correctly. It’s a really good golf course. For him to win today, it’s a good thing. (Saturday) was a bit better because it was not too much wind. Today, it was very difficult in the bad condition, and he played well. He was able to keep the ball in the middle of the fairway and on the green. I’m very proud.”
Rives will continue to practice and play and work on his game during his stay in the Bay Area. He is one of the top junior players in France.
“It’s just the beginning of a real good career for him. But we have work to do again, on the short game and driving it more straight,” said Roux. “It’s a good thing for him to practice again.”
Jonathon Hydorn of Brentwood, CA was second in the Tiger Woods-Boys 16-18 Division, shooting 78-79 – 157. Jackson Crawford of El Dorado Hills was third, with rounds of 79 and 79 for a 158 total.
Rocco Lee, a senior at Justin-Siena High School who plays out of Napa Valley Country Club, was the only Napa Valley player in the field. Lee shot 83-89 – 172 and tied for seventh in the Tiger Woods-Boys 16-18 Division.
“This is one of my favorite tournaments,” said Lee, a Napa resident. “Hurricane does a great job of organizing tournaments. They are really well-organized two-day tournaments.”
Lee is preparing for the spring season for the Justin-Siena golf team.
“Hopefully I can do better than I did today,” said Lee. “The wind was blowing pretty hard and made it really difficult. My game hasn’t been super sharp because it’s hard to practice in the winter.”
Kenny Castro of Sacramento won the Will Smith-Boys 14-15 division, shooting 98-92 – 190.
Brody Root of Belvedere won the Ernie Els-Boys 11-13 Division, shooting 88-90 – 178.
Madison Wu of Dublin won the Justin Timberlake-Girls 14-18 Division, shooting 81-77 – 158.
The Hurricane Junior Golf Tour has upcoming events in Northern California scheduled for:
* Feb. 8-9, Northern California Junior Open, Rancho Solano Golf Course, Fairfield.
* Feb. 29-March 1, Sacramento Junior Open, Haggin Oaks Golf Complex, Alister MacKenzie Course.
* March 21-22, Poppy Ridge Junior Open, Livermore.
* April 25-26, Bay Area Junior Open, The Reserve at Spanos Park, Stockton.
* Oct. 31-Nov. 1, Ambassador Series at Bayonet and Blackhorse, Seaside.