Lauren Wong (Girls 15-18), RJ Arone (Boys 15-18), Ella Rawson (Girls 13-14) and Jaxson Stites (Boys 13-14) won crowns at the 2023 Nevada State Junior Amateur Championship. The tournament was held June 26-27, 2023 at Dayton Valley Country Club. –by Bill Bowman, LasVegasGolfInsider.com
Lauren Wong played her final nine holes in one-over-par, including a birdie on her final hole of the tournament, in winning the Girls 15-18 Division by six strokes.
Wong, who graduated from West Career and Technical Academy in Las Vegas but played golf at Palo Verde, will be attending Harvard this fall on an academic scholarship.
“I wasn’t recruited to play golf but I would like to walk on,” Wong said as she plans to study the history of science and minor in economics.
She said this tournament has given her a little more confidence in her game.
“I’m so honored and grateful to have won this tournament,” she said. “It’s not about the result…it’s about being able to stay within myself and focus on the process.”
But, she did admit finishing the tournament with a birdie will stay with her.
“It’s something I won’t be forgetting for a long time,” she said. “I had about 115 yards into the green and hit a pitching wedge to about three and a half feet and made the putt for birdie. It was a great ending.”
She said the emotional finish is one she is trying to keep on an even keel.
“It’s more mental for me,” she said. “I want to stay within myself and focus on the process. If something goes wrong, I just have to trust the process that I can somehow get it back on track.”
Lauren Wong, 75-78—153
Rya Montoya, 78-81—159
Ashley Tarkanian, 81-80—161
RJ Arone, fresh off helping Bishop Gorman win the boys 5A state golf team title, breezed to an eight-stroke victory in the Boys 15-18 Division.
“It was a fun two days,” Arone said. “I went in there looking to have fun and play well. Nothing brought me down during the tournament. It just kept flowing.”
He said once he got to the back nine of the final day he was in good position.
“I was locked in,” he said. “Everything was going smoothly and I was playing well. I didn’t miss a putt inside 10 feet so my putting was also solid.”
That may sound all well and good, but there was one slight problem he had to overcome.
“I broke my driver right before the tournament,” he said. “I used a stock driver that I got from the store. It was right off the rack. It was a little rough at the start but I got used to it.”
Now he has his sights on going back-to-back-to-back as he also won the 2022 State Junior title.
“Two wins in a row with state and now this tournament,” he said. “I’ll try to go for the three-peat next year at state.”
RJ Arone, 70-67—137
Harrison Hashimoto, 73-72—145
Angelo Bidart, 74-74—148
Ella Rawson will be heading into her freshman year at Bishop Manogue this fall with a state title on her resume as she won the Girls 13-14 Division.
“It’s definitely the biggest win I’ve had,” she said. “It will definitely build my confidence to know what I’m capable of accomplishing. Now I know I can do more than I thought.”
She said the tournament also showed her the good and not-so-good parts of her game right now.
“I definitely need to work on my short game,” she said. “I drove the ball pretty well and hit a lot of greens. But I couldn’t get the ball cleanly out of the rough when I was chipping. I’ll be working on that.”
She said one shot sticks out in her mind over the two days.
“On the par-3 13th I probably hit the cleanest iron of my life,” she said. “I hit it to about five feet.”
And the putt?
“I missed it,” she said with a laugh. “The putt broke on me. A lot of putts weren’t going in for me but I did have an easy par on that one.”
Ella Rawson, 81-85—166
Allison Mortimeyer, 91-89—180
Leila Rawson, 94-95—189
Jaxson Stites, who will be a freshman at Reno High School this fall, overcame a triple bogey midway through his final round to post a five-shot victory.
“I’ve won a few other tournaments but this is one of the biggest ones,” he said. “I also beat a player I hadn’t beaten before so that gives me more confidence going forward.”
Stites came into the tournament with a game-plan that worked perfectly…until the final round triple bogey.
“The key for me was hitting irons off the tee and keeping it in the fairway,” he said. “I was just focusing on going shot to shot and not getting ahead of myself.”
The triple bogey, which came on the ninth hole of the second day, changed the game plan a little.
“That’s a tough hole,” he said. “The triple wasn’t good but I just told myself to move on. It’s not like it’s the end of the world.”
His mindset and game-plan changed heading to the back nine.
“I knew I had to make some birdies to stay in the lead,” he said. “I didn’t hit as many irons off the tee because I wanted to leave myself shorter numbers into the greens.”
The plan worked to perfection.
“I made birdies on 11 and 12 and wound up shooting one-under on the back,” he said. “I was really happy with the way I fought back after the triple.”
Jaxson Stites, 72-74—146
Luke Swanson, 75-76—151
Maddux Nichols, 76-78—154