AJGA Sacramento Junior Championship – Final Round Recap (2024)

The final round of the 2024 AJGA Sacramento Junior Championship presented by Morton Golf Foundation

SACRAMENTO – Samantha Chiou of Orinda and Ansen Tran of Fresno won their respective divisions on Sunday at the Sacramento Junior Championship presented by Morton Golf Foundation


Chiou, at 13 the youngest player in the girl’s field, was dominating, winning the three-day, 54-hole American Junior Golf Association event at the Haggin Oaks Golf Complex in wire-to-wire fashion. She won her first career AJGA event, shooting a sizzling 12-under-par 204 at the Alister MacKenzie Golf Course. She won by a commanding seven-shot margin. 

“What Samantha did, watching her play today, she barely mis-hit a shot. It was just unbelievable,” said Mike Woods, a PGA member, Vice President and General Manager of Haggin Oaks, and Vice President-Morton Golf Foundation. 

Tran, a junior at Clovis North High School, won the boy’s division on the second hole of a sudden death playoff. After holing out for an eagle-3 from 35 yards out on the final hole to force a playoff, he two-putted for birdie from 40 feet to beat James Lee of Burlingame. It’s also the first career AJGA win for Tran, who completed the event at 9-under-par 207 for the weekend. 

It was an exciting ending to an Easter Sunday that delivered just about everything – super scoring from the field of talented junior players and spring-like temperatures in the mid-60s with sunny conditions. 

“I’ve never won one of these before. My brother (Aidan Tran, a sophomore at Georgia Tech) has won three of them,” said Tran. “I’m happy kind of getting behind his footsteps and maybe getting more later. But it’s huge.” 

Awards were presented to the top finishers in both divisions at the conclusion of the AJGA Open Tournament, which had players ages 12-19. Following a cut in the second round, 71 players (46 boys, 25 girls) advanced to the final round. 

AJGA staff presented a shadow box, a custom wood board that will be displayed at MacKenzie’s Sports Bar and Grille, at Haggin Oaks. 

“It’s a token of our appreciation to thank them for having us out, being such gracious hosts and helping grow the game of junior golf,” said Jordan Alejandre, Regional Manager, West, for the American Junior Golf Association. 

“Junior golf in Northern California is booming, as you can tell with the Morton Golf Foundation. They’ve gotten so much started in the way of junior golf, with their programs. They just are growing the game in so many different ways, and they’re great partners to have here. Northern California is a hotbed for junior golf.” 

There was some fantastic scoring on the final day, led by Tyler Loree of Kula, Hawaii, and Matt Robles of Downey, CA, each posting 7-under-par 65s in the boy’s division. Chiou and Gianna Singh of Elk Grove each had 68s, the low scores in the girl’s division. 

“This is what the top talent does. It’s very impressive,” said Woods. 

The course was set up as a par-72, 7,000-yard layout for the boys, and a par-72, 6,118-yard layout for the girls. 

“The kids are just so great. They can hit it well, and they’ll take advantage of every little nook and cranny that they’ve seen over the last three days, including the practice round,” said Alejandre. 

Those players finishing in the top-10 earn full-exempt status on the AJGA circuit. 

“These events are national level,” said Alejandre. “We have a lot of people from all over; it’s the best of the best, some of the top-96 juniors in the world. And they come from all over. Easter weekend is probably one of our biggest weekends of the spring, if not the biggest.” 

Chiou, an eighth-grader at Bentley School in Oakland, expanded on her three-shot lead going into the final round. She shot 68-68-68 – 204. She had 17 birdies during the tournament, including six in the final round. 

“This year, I’ve been really close, but I haven’t really had my best rounds,” said Chiou, who plays out of Tilden Park Golf Course, in Berkeley. “It really means a lot. I’ve been putting in a lot of work, prior to this tournament, with my irons. I’ve been getting a lot of them really close to the hole this week.” 

Chiou added: 

“This one means a lot to me. Winning AJGA has always been like one of my like biggest goals. I finally accomplished it. I really hope many more wins like this like will come. I want to thank everyone who has supported me, especially my parents. I also want to thank Morton Golf Foundation, the volunteers, and AJGA staff.” 
Taking second was Olivia Duan of Cupertino, 70-71-70 – 5-under 211. 

In third was Lily Peng of San Ramon, 70-69-74 – 3-under 213. 

The Sacramento Junior Championship presented by Morton Golf Foundation drew players from eight states and four countries, a field that was highlighted by 14 male AJGA champions and 11 female AJGA champions. 

It’s the first time that Haggin Oaks has hosted an AJGA event in 20 years. The event is sponsored by Morton Golf Foundation. 

“We know the AJGA is the premier organization in junior golf, and it’s the organization that college coaches are really looking at,” said Woods. “It really attracts the top players. And we really want to provide that kind of opportunity for our kids in the greater Sacramento area, so that they get the opportunity to compete at the highest level, and to have home field advantage, to play a course they play lots of tournament golf at, to sleep in their own bed. I think it’s all part of their growth as tournament players, to get comfortable on the last day of one of these big events.” 

There were all kinds of stellar shot-making around the 18th green, as Tran and Lee were tied, at 9-under 207 at the end of regulation play. Tran shot 68-69-70 – 207. Lee shot 69-71-67 – 207. 

Tran holed out for eagle on the par-5, 537-yard 18th hole, hitting a lob wedge from the rough, behind the green, that tracked right to the pin. 

“My goal is to just put it close and then it ended up going in,” said Tran. “I wasn’t like aiming to make it. It kind of just happened. My goal was just, here’s what I need to do. I’m going to hit it, put it close and then it ended up going in – so lucky me. I was just doing what I could do. And it just happened to work out well for me.” 

It also worked out well for Lee, who birdied No. 18 after chipping close to the hole on his third shot and one-putting. 

“The whole round, my goal was just to play within myself, just make sure every shot was executed to the best of my ability, try to detach from the results, whether or not it was good or bad,” said Lee. “And so, when (Tran) chipped that one in I thought, great shot. Now let’s focus back on what I can control and trying to hit a good shot here. 

“I think just trying to control what I can control.” 

Tran and Lee went to the par-3, 191-yard 16th hole to begin the sudden-death playoff. 

Each player got up and down to save par after missing the green on their tee shots short right. Tran saved his par, making a 7-foot putt. 

“I was super nervous, back on that 16th tee. I’m going to swing how I’ve been swinging and whatever happens, happens. Like I said, it worked out well for me,” said Tran. 

On the second playoff hole, Tran reached the par-5, 564-yard 17th hole on his second shot from 270 yards with a 3-wood. 

“I hit a similar shot during regulation on that last one. I was just thinking to myself, I did it early today. I can do it again and just ripped it,” said Tran. 

From there, he two-putted for birdie from 40 feet to win. 

Tran took a three-shot lead into the final round, with Lee tied for second place. 

Lee was just short on his second shot from the fairway on the second playoff hole. He chipped on to the green and missed to the right on his birdie putt. 

“My driver has been kind of shaky in the last several weeks, but it was the strength of my game today. I was hitting everything down the middle,” said Tran.  

“It feels great. I’m just happy that my parents have been so supportive, helping me get to where I am now. And, of course, all the effort I put in, in the last month or so getting ready for this tournament, just to make sure everything’s dialed. It’s a great feeling.” 

Tran added: “I’d like to thank everyone at Haggin Oaks, especially the groundskeepers for keeping the course in such great condition. Every time I come out here, the course is always in great shape.” 

In taking second place, Lee had six birdies during his round. 

“It’s definitely a nice way to get back into my season here, and hopefully it gives me some confidence moving forward,” said Lee. 

Also placing in the top-5 in the boy’s division: 

* Third place: Tyler Loree of Kula, Hawaii, 75-68-65 – 8-under-par 208. 

* Fourth place: Reed Arnaldo of Encinitas, CA, 70-72-67 – 7-under-par 209. 

* Fifth place: Matt Robles of Downey, CA, 71-75-65 – 5-under-par 211, and Chris Bettencourt of Clovis, CA, 70-72-69 – 5-under-par 211. 

Players posting the low rounds of the day were also honored. 

In the girls division, it was: 

* Gianna Singh of Elk Grove and Samantha Chiou of Orinda, each with 4-under-par 68s. 

In the boys division, it was: 

Matt Robles of Downey, CA and Tyler Loree of Kula, Hawaii, each with 7-under-par 65s. 

Sacramento Junior Championship to continue at Haggin Oaks 

Ken Morton Sr., a PGA Master Professional and the Chief Executive Officer for Morton Golf LLC and Morton Golf Management Company, is very happy that the AJGA will be at Haggin Oaks for the Sacramento Junior Championship presented by Morton Golf Foundation through 2028. 

The AJGA, according to its website, www.ajga.org, is a nonprofit organization “dedicated to the overall growth and development of young men and women who aspire to earn college golf scholarships through competitive junior golf.” 

“When we talked to the AJGA, we wanted to make them know that we weren’t in this for a one-year deal. We want this to be a permanent event in Sacramento. And one that the community can be proud of, that kids can work hard to prepare to be able to play in it,” said Morton. 

It’s the first time that Haggin Oaks – a 36-hole facility that also features an expansive driving range, Academy Holes, MacKenzie Putting Course, Super Shop, Shoe Store, Player Performance Studio and Club Performance & Repair Center – has hosted an AJGA event in 20 years. 

“We had it here years before, but at this time, the community is really behind it. Not only from an aspect of their enthusiasm, but financially,” said Morton, Honorary Director of the Morton Golf Foundation. 

The Morton Golf Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded in 2008, helps to “better the lives of several kids programs, disabled programs and hundreds of underserved individuals each and every year,” according to its website, mortongolffoundation.org. It provides financial assistance for “underserved golf organizations that are in need as well as programs for the disabled and youth within the Sacramento Region.” 

The Morton Golf Foundation’s aim with the Sacramento Junior Championship is to bring a national event to Haggin Oaks, in the Northern California region. 

“It really turned out well, because they have 96 players, and 63 are from California. We had 17 from the Sacramento Area region of between the qualifying to get in and the tournament itself. We have really accomplished our goals with the event. We really now believe that, we are from the bottom all the way up to the top, prepared to help a kid get to college and play golf, if that’s really what they desire and they’re willing to work hard enough,” said Morton, whose awards in the golf industry include being inducted into the National PGA Hall of Fame (2005), California Golf Hall of Fame, National PGA Professional of the Year (1998), two-time National PGA Merchandiser of the Year, National PGA Junior Golf Leader, National PGA Horton Smith Award for PGA Education, California Golf Writers Golf Person of the Year, and Golf Digest Magazine Top 72 Most Important People in the Golf Industry Honor. 

He also founded the Sacramento Area Youth Golf Association in 1983. 



  • Marty James is a freelance writer who makes his home in Napa. He retired on June 4, 2019, after spending 40 years as a sports writer, sports editor and executive sports editor for the Napa Valley Register, a daily newspaper in Napa County. He is a 1979 graduate of Sacramento State and a member of the California Golf Writers & Broadcasters Association. He was inducted into the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame in 2016.

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