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California and Virginia capture titles at inaugural NHSGA Invite
Virginia's men's team (Photo submitted)
Virginia's men's team (Photo submitted)

The inaugural NHSGA High School Golf National Invitational wrapped up at the Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. The nation’s top high school golfers competed to become America’s first national champions. This invitation-only tournament is comprised of more than 300 of the top boys and girls high school golfers from across the country.

Boys Highlights:

In the Boys team division, Virginia won the team title with a two-day score of 518 (291-290). The Virginia team entered the final round trailing by one stroke, but won by 11 shots. Virginia was led by Charlie Hason, who fired a two-day total of 141 (72-69) and finished fifth individually. Second place went to Arkansas (592), followed by Pennsylvania (598) in third. Both teams from Pennsylvania tied for 3rd place, but the team from Pittsburgh edged out their intrastate rivals in a scorecard playoff.

Coach Josh Aldrich from Virginia said, “All the teams were strong. Our boys had a blast. At this stage for those guys to keep that type of composure was really, really cool to watch. I think there’s nothing bigger than this, nothing better.”

Aidan Thomas from Bernalillo, N.M., fired his career-best round 65 in day one of the tournament, and followed it up with a 70 on day two to win the individual medalist title (135 total). Thomas led the first round of the championship by two strokes over James Amai (Brookline, Mass.) and Connor Gaunt (Cabot, Ark.). Amai fired an impressive second-round 69, but was edged out by Thomas.

Although the National High School Invitational is in its inaugural year, Thomas said, “I feel like I belong here and am very comfortable. It’s exciting to compete with the best high school players. I worked hard to earn an invitation to the championship and feel like I deserve to be here. It feels great to be a champion.”

Thomas, of Native American decent, was introduced to golf by his brother in New Mexico where they notably hit balls into trains. He just completed his senior year and will be attending New Mexico State University in the fall, where he will compete on the varsity golf team. Thomas chose New Mexico State University because they offer Professional Golf Management as a major. He has dreams to play on the PGA Tour, but if he cannot make it on tour, he would love to be a PGA Professional working at a golf facility.

Thomas grew up playing on the PGA’s Sun Country Junior Tour and recently qualified for the 44th Boys Junior PGA Championship. Since Thomas has already earned a qualification into the Boys Junior PGA Championship, Amai earned the exemption into the upcoming event in Hartford, Conn., July 30 through August 2.

Amai is an accomplished golfer who has recently had a great run winning the Hornblower in his home state of Massachusetts and qualifying as the medalist in his recent USGA Junior Qualifier. James will play in the US Junior for the 3rd time this summer.

Amai said, “Playing in the National Invitational representing Massachusetts is amazing. Any time you can represent your state and school is an honor. This tournament gives me motivation to play for my community and not just myself.” Amai was ecstatic learning of his exemption into the Boys Junior PGA Championship since Hartford is just over an hour away from his hometown of Brookline, Mass.

Girls Highlights:

The Girls Invitational finished down the road from Walt Disney World Resort at Falcon’s Fire Golf Club. The tournament went down to the wire and included a playoff in the end for the top women’s high school teams. It took two holes for California to top South Carolina by one shot in the team division. South Carolina and California both totaled two-day scores of 584.

The tournament could not have included more drama with a 4V4 aggregate playoff, which included a birdie on the final hole by tournament medalist Kamille Dimayuga. After day one, South Carolina shot a 297 and led the tournament by a single stroke over California. Team Georgia finished in third with a score of 641. The team from California came in as favorites and stood strong to their pre-tournament ranking.

Coach Troy Cowgill said, “We survived more pressure than we have ever felt and edged out a very talented group of young girls from South Carolina. We were unsure of what to expect from this event, but leave with a fantastic experience and will grow as a team following this tournament.” After day one, Cowgill said, “We’re here to win, but we’re also here to have fun”. The team and coach were excited to the W and bring the trophy home to the west coast.

Dimayuga (Buena Park, Calif.) shot consecutive rounds of 71 to finish at 142. Coming into the final round, Dimayuga trailed Kayla Bartemeyer (Mt. Pleasant, S.C.) by two shots. Bartemeyer was the sole player to break 70 in round one with a 69 (-3). Isabel Sy (San Gabriel, Calif.) shot the low round of the tournament with her second-round 68, which was enough to place her into a tie for second at 143 with Emma Schimpf (Charleston, S.C.).

With the medalist honor, Dimayuga earned an exemption into the 44th Girls Junior PGA Championship in a couple short weeks at Keney Park Golf Course in Hartford, Conn., July 9-12. She was ecstatic to learn this news and be awarded the honor to compete in such a prestigious event.

Dimayuga said, “Getting to travel with my team itself was a fun experience. I learned a lot about myself this week that I will use going forward”

Both the boys and girls individual and team champions earned exemptions into next year’s National High School Golf Invitational.

Notes:

The Invitational brings together a strong field from a wide range of large, small, public and private high school golf programs representing 43 states. Only the best high school golf teams and individuals in each state received invites based on their State Championship performance.

The High School Golf National Invitational is conducted by the National High School Golf Association (NHSGA), a division of Nextgengolf, which was recently acquired by the PGA of America. The PGA will award a special exemption for tournament medalists into the 2019 Boys Junior PGA Championship and Girls Junior PGA Championship at Keney Park Golf Course in Hartford, Connecticut.

ABOUT THE High School Golf National Invitational

Started in 2019, this tournament aims to bring together the strongest ever field in high school golf. Invitations will be extended to all high school state championship teams and individual medalists. The tournament will be 36 holes of stroke play with individual and team competitions. The twist is that teams competing in the invitational will be representing their state, not their school.

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