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Napa Valley Junior Golf: Noh, Bettencourt win Johnny Miller 'Champ' Junior Classic
Junior Golf

Napa Valley Junior Golf: Noh, Bettencourt win Johnny Miller 'Champ' Junior Classic

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Jake Bettencourt was on point with his short game, chipping in twice for birdies and rolling in putts all over the place.

Kaylyn Noh was just about perfect, hitting 17 of 18 greens in regulation.

They each went low on the North Course during the second and final round of the Johnny Miller “Champ” Junior Classic on Wednesday at Silverado Resort and Spa, with Noh shooting a 3-under-par 69 and Bettencourt carding a 70.

They were the overall champions of the two-day, 36-hole Junior Golf Association of Northern California tournament. It drew a sold-out field of 72 players, ages 12 to 18.

“It means a lot to win on the JGANC tour and just having Johnny’s name on it means even more,” said Bettencourt, 18, who is from Clovis.

“Being able to play this well in a tournament at such a well-known golf course is super fun,” said Noh, 17, who is from Rocklin. “It’s a great honor and opportunity to be able to play here.”

Bettencourt, playing in the boys 16-18 division, opened the tournament on Tuesday, shooting a 4-over-par 76 on the South Course. The 2021 graduate of Buchanan High School-Clovis was at 2-over 146 for the two rounds.

Noh, a 2021 graduate of Rocklin High playing in the girls 16-18 division, started out with a 71 on the South Course and completed the tournament at 4-under 140.

Johnny Miller, a 25-time winner on the PGA Tour who is in the World Golf Hall of Fame, was on hand to present awards to the top finishers in each age group as their names and scores were announced near the main practice green. Photos were also taken of the players with Miller, a two-time major champion, who retired as the lead golf analyst in 2019 after 29 years with NBC Sports.

“I played junior golf all over – Lodi, Merced, Visalia, all over Northern Cal. We had some good golf courses,” said Miller. “But it’s nice for the kids to be able to come to a pretty nice facility in Silverado Resort, so I think they appreciate being able to play these courses.”

The Johnny Miller “Champ” Junior Classic, open to boys and girls, ages 12-18, is put on by the Johnny Miller “Champ” Foundation. As a premier event on the JGANC circuit, it earns players traveling team points.

“It certainly is a privilege to be here,” said Shane Balfour, Executive Director of the JGANC. “The facility itself is a world-class destination. Mr. Miller has the golf course set up in a tour-caliber way. It’s a privilege to be at a facility that they can experience and what the tour pros are going to have in September (at the PGA Tour’s Fortinet Championship, Sept. 13-19 at Silverado).”

Miller, one of the owners of Silverado Resort, created the Johnny Miller Junior Golf Foundation in 1993 to promote junior golf. The foundation was renamed the Johnny Miller “Champ” Foundation in 2015 to honor his father, Larry Otto Miller, and his legacy in golf.

“With the ‘Champ’ Foundation, we set it up to be able to promote junior golf, and to also help kids in high school and high school golf teams. It’s worked out really well,” said Miller, who is assisted by his son, Andy Miller, Silverado’s design director, who played the PGA Tour after starring at Justin-Siena High School and BYU. Andy Miller, a four-time NCAA All-American and a member of the BYU Hall of Fame, assists his dad in the golf course design business.

It was Larry Otto Miller who got his son, Johnny Miller, the PGA Tour Player of the Year in 1974, into the game. Johnny Miller’s victories include the 1973 U.S. Open and the 1976 Open Championship.

“He was very positive and would always compliment people – saying, ‘You’re playing good. Your swing looks better. That was a great shot. You’ll be really good someday,” said Johnny Miller. “That’s kind of the way he taught – more by eliminating the negative and accentuating the positive.

“That’s what my dad was really good at and it helped my kids be raised with a good attitude. He was a great, great guy.”

Bettencourt had birdies on Nos. 5, 9, 13, 16 and 17, as he came back from a three-shot deficit in the first round. He chipped in for birdie on No. 5 and No. 17. He rolled in a 30-foot putt for birdie on No. 16.

He has gotten a lot of help in golf from his dad, John Bettencourt, who played at Fresno State from 1992-1996 and spent one year on the Nike Tour.

“I think my short game is pretty good, especially chipping,” said Jake Bettencourt, a two-time Tri-River League player, who will join the Fresno State men’s golf team starting in the fall.

He was able to regroup after starting out his final round with a bogey on No. 1.

“I just kind of told myself there’s plenty of golf left, just kept going at it, stay in the present, just one shot at a time,” he said.

“I’ve played here a couple times before, so I kind of learned from past mistakes and just kind of knew where the correct spot was to putt. I just kept staying in the present, shot by shot.”

Bettencourt won the 74th annual Len Ross Memorial Golf Tournament, a JGANC event, in April at Sunnyside Country Club in Fresno. He had rounds of 72, 77, 70 and 71.

He is looking forward to playing in college.

“I’m really excited, because there’s a lot of good golf ahead of me. We have a stacked team this fall, so qualifying is going to be really competitive,” said Bettencourt, who plays out of Sunnyside CC. “I just kind of want to help anywhere I can. Hopefully we can play good as a team. We are going to be pretty solid if we can play well together as a team.”

Noh, a four-time All-Sierra Foothill League selection, had birdies during the final round on Nos. 4, 7, 9 and 14.

“Being able to play at a course like this and being able to shoot that low, it’s a lot of fun,” said Noh, a two-time SFL most valuable player. “I just went into the round thinking that, I’m going to play my best today and whatever happens, happens. And, you know, that’s the kind of score that comes out when you’re just relaxed with your game.”

Noh put herself in position with opportunities for more birdies. She had one bogey.

“Not making a lot of those putts is a little disappointing. But still, the score was great,” she said.

“I’ve played at this golf course before and it’s a lot of fun. I’m familiar with the course. The greens definitely gave me a lot to work, for sure, with tough reads.”

Noh tied for 28th at the CIF State Girls Championship in 2019 at Poppy Hills Golf Course at Pebble Beach. She has played at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Tournament and Northern California Championships for Rocklin. In addition, she is a 13-time winner of First Tee – Greater Sacramento events and was named as Player of the Year in 2019.

Noh will continue her career, playing for Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo in the fall.

“I am incredibly excited. Just seeing how successful they are as a team makes me super excited to get there in the fall, and to be able to potentially help that team go even further,” said Noh, who plays out of Whitney Oaks Golf Club in Rocklin.

“I’m incredibly excited to play. It’s the highlight of my golf career.”

Nicholas Young of Napa tied for second in the boys 16-18 division, shooting 73-78 – 151.

Charlie Keller of Napa shot 84-80 – 164 and finished 12th in the boys 14-15 division.

Depending upon their ages, the entrants played from either the burgundy, gold, white or blue tees

The top finishers in each age group:

* Boys 16-18: Jake Bettencourt, Clovis, 76-70 – 146.

* Boys 14-15: Matthew Almajano, Fremont, 74-74 – 148.

* Boys 12-13: Benjamin Wang, San Ramon, 72-77 – 149.

* Girls 16-18: Kaylyn Noh, Rocklin, 71-69 – 140.

* Girls 14-15: Nikki Chindavong, Fairfield, 76-75 – 151.

* Girls 12-13: Emily Guan, El Dorado Hills, 76-76 – 152.

The Junior Golf Association of Northern California, a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1970, has over 70 tournaments per year.

“We offer a variety of fun, competitive, affordable junior golf tournaments for boys and girls ages 7 to 18. In JGANC, your child will have the opportunity and experiences necessary to grow and excel in golf – and in life,” the organization’s website, jganc.bluegolf.com, points out.

JGANC tournaments are held throughout Northern California during the year at a combination of public, semi-private and private courses.

“The tournaments and events provide an opportunity for junior golfers to build a solid foundation, gain tournament experience and compete among their peers for the love of the game.”

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