It was a big week for Ellie Bushnell, a Granite Bay High School senior who won the individual title at the NCGA/CIF NorCal Girls’ Championship on November 7 at Berkeley Country Club. She fired a 1-under-par 71 and will advance to the 2022 CIF State Girls Golf Championship. Two days later, on Nov. 9, she signed a national letter of intent with Oklahoma State. She will play her college golf for the Cowgirls starting next year.
It was also a big week for Tavia Burgess, a junior at Granite Bay High, who shot an even-par 72 to finish in second place at the NCGA/CIF NorCal Girls’ Championship. She will also advance to the CIF State Girls Golf Championship, scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 16, at San Gabriel Country Club. “Unfortunately, the team couldn’t quite make it this year, but advancing to NorCals was a huge accomplishment to back up what we did last year,” said Jason Sitterud, Granite Bay’s head coach and assistant Athletic Director. “To watch these two girls have a legitimate chance to win the individual title is exciting.”
Last year, Bushnell and Burgess helped lead Granite Bay to its first state team title. They each shot 1-over-par 72s to tie for seventh place individually. The Grizzlies won the championship by a sizeable 16-stroke margin over second-place Palo Alto in the event at Poppy Hills Golf Course at Pebble Beach.
“We came into this knowing we had a good chance because we’re all competitive golfers, and so the goal was to just kind of do our thing and just play as good as we can,” Bushnell said after the 2021 state tournament. “Mainly, it’s all about having fun.
“The fact that we could do it, to pull together as a team and everybody play awesome golf, super proud of everybody.”
The Sacramento area will be represented well at this year’s state tournament. While Bushnell and Burgess qualified as individuals, Pleasant Grove High-Elk Grove also advanced after taking third place with a 398-team score. The Pleasant Grove team consists of Gianna Singh, Petra Yee, Alaythia Hinds, Sophie Cook, Alyssa Quilao, and Hannah Camara.
Also going to state as an individual qualifier is Nikki Chindavong, a senior at Rodriguez High-Cordelia, who shot a 4-over-par 76, tying for 10th place. As a First Tee – Greater Sacramento member, Chindavong represented the Sacramento chapter in the PURE Insurance Championship, Impacting the First Tee last year. It’s a PGA Tour Champions event that is played at Pebble Beach Golf Links.
“Pleasant Grove played tremendous,” said Sitterud. “They’ve got a great team and a great chance to compete this year. We’re excited for them.”
Sitterud is also excited about Bushnell and Burgess continuing in the 2022 fall season. “You’re proud of both girls. Both were very excited for each other,” he said. There is so much time that Bushnell and Burgess put into golf – practicing, playing, and competing year-round in junior and amateur events.
“Ellie is focused on her mental game. When you’re expected to do great things, she seems to answer the bell, which is pretty impressive,” said Sitterud. “Tavia has worked on gaining more length in her game and adding more muscle to her body. It’s starting to show when she can keep that balance of muscle and the touch around the green. “It’s fun to see them both keep progressing.”
They are two of the stars that are putting Sacramento-area and Northern California golf on the map.
Bushnell won both the 2021 and 2022 CWAC (California Women’s Amateur Championship) Junior Girls State Championship titles. She was selected as the Girls Player of the Year by the Junior Golf Association of Northern California in 2020, as she won five tournament titles. She won the CIF NorCal title as a freshman. “For her to be able to go to Oklahoma State is a great accomplishment. It’s a great school,” said Sitterud. “It’s just been a cool week to see her have that success.”
Bushnell had four birdies and a triple-bogey on her card at Berkeley CC. She birdied four straight holes, Nos. 4-7. Her only miscue was the triple-bogey seven on the 13th hole. “It was tricky and difficult. I had a slow round,” said Bushnell. “I clutched in. I managed to make it work. It was tough. It was cold and windy, and it was hilly. I’d say the whole day; I was missing birdie putts within like 3 to 6 feet. “You get exhausted at the end, but honestly, having all the girls sitting by the 18th green cheering me on really got me to boost it in. So, that was awesome.”
San Gabriel Country Club will be set up as a par-72, 6,034-yard layout from the Blue tees. It will be a 54-player field. Valley Christian High-San Jose, the NorCal champion, will join Monte Vista High-Danville and Pleasant Grove as state team qualifiers.
Santa Margarita won the CIF/SCGA SoCal Regional High School team title at Brookside Golf Club in Pasadena on Nov. 10. Also moving on to state are Arcadia and Portola.
Getting off to a good start is critical, said Sitterud. “I think with these tournaments; if you can just not shoot yourself in the foot in the first six holes, you’re going to be OK,” he said. “The course sets up well for these two girls (Bushnell and Burgess). And so, I expect them to be in the top 5 coming into the last six holes.”
Granite Bay won the Sierra Foothill League title and finished second at the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1 tournament, at Timber Creek Golf Course in Roseville, second at the SJS Masters Tournament, at The Reserve at Spanos Park in Stockton, and fifth at NorCals.
Granite Bay’s home course is Granite Bay Golf Club. “I’m super proud of the team. And I think it’s cool that we can be competitive. But at the same time, we’re all super close. We all just have a good time,” said Bushnell.
A look at Ellie Bushnell, Tavia Burgess, and Nikki Chindavong:
Bushnell is one of the state’s top junior and high school players. She won the Notah Begay Stanford Regional Qualifier in 2021. She had top-5 finishes last year at the IMG Junior World Championships and AJGA-Northwest Arkansas Junior. Oklahoma State announced Bushnell’s signing in a report on its Athletics website, okstate.com. “I’m super excited. And I’m super grateful to have this opportunity to play for them for sure,” said Bushnell. “I hope that from now until I move to Oklahoma, I can get some notches under my belt that would make the team proud and the coaches proud and help them out a little bit. Just keep doing what I’m doing, working hard, and keeping my practice up.
“I owe a lot to the people who helped me make this possible. I’m very fortunate to have these people in my life that were able to get me to this point. Thank you to them.”
Oklahoma State announced the signings of Bushnell, Marta Silchenko of Riga, Latvia, and Sammie Miller of Brentwood, CA, on November 11. “We are very excited about this recruiting class,” Oklahoma State head coach Greg Robertson said in the report at okstate.com. “All three are very talented players, but just as important, they are great people with the character we’re looking for in our program. “Marta has had a lot of experience and success on an international level, while Ellie and Sammie are two players on the rise and have a ton of talent that will add to the roster. The future of Cowgirl golf certainly looks bright, and we will have a lot to look forward to over the next four years.”
Oklahoma State is No. 16 in the Women’s Team Collegiate Rankings Presented by StrackaLine, announced on Nov. 8 by Golfweek at rankings.golfweek.com. Oklahoma State is No. 18 in the Golfstat team rankings, announced on Nov. 8 at golfstat.com. Bushnell was second at the 72nd Sacramento City Junior Easter Championship, April 12-13, at the Bing Maloney Golf Complex. She shot 75-73 – 148 in the Sacramento Golf Council event. She was fourth in the Sacramento Valley Women’s Amateur, June 4-5, at the Alister MacKenzie Golf Course at Haggin Oaks Golf Complex. She shot 76-73 – 149 in the Sacramento Golf Council event. She tied for 13th at the 25th California State Fair Junior Championship, a Sacramento Golf Council event, on Aug. 27 at Mather Golf Course. She fired a 74. She was ninth at the 27th California State Fair Women’s Championship, Sept. 3-4, at Bartley Cavanaugh Golf Course in Sacramento. She shot 70-74 – 144.
Burgess had four birdies and four bogeys in her round at NorCals. “I felt like I played OK,” she said. “It wasn’t my best. There are things that you can do to improve. It was a little rough for me.”
Burgess said her putting was vital. “What helped me out, something I’m firm at was my putting. I made a bunch of putts to save for par and birdies. Without my putting, I definitely wouldn’t have gotten the score that I got that day,” she said. “It was a little bit of a struggle with my swing. But in the end, I managed to fix it.”
Burgess takes pride in working to improve her game. “I feel like I’ve improved from last year,” she said. “There are things that I need to work on. But I’m happy with the improvement I’ve had from this year, and how my scores have gotten lower. And that’s basically how I feel – I’m just a better player the more I practice, the more time goes on, in that sense.”
Burgess won the Peggy Dodds Memorial-86th Sacramento City Junior, July 5-6, at the Alister MacKenzie Course at Haggin Oaks Golf Complex. She had rounds of 74 and 75 for a 149 total in the Sacramento Golf Council event. She tied for sixth at the Sacramento Valley Women’s Amateur, shooting 75-76 – 151.
At the State Fair Women’s Championship, Burgess finished 12th with rounds of 71 and 74 for a 145 total.
Nikki Chindavong signed a national letter-of-intent with the University of Nevada, head coach Kathleen Takaishi announced in a report by University of Nevada Athletics at nevadawolfpack.com on Nov. 9.
Chindavong was selected All-Monticello Empire League all four years and won MEL titles in 2019 and 2021. “We are excited to welcome Nikki to the Wolf Pack Family,” Takaishi said in the report at nevadawolfpack.com. “Nikki brings a positive attitude, good work ethic, and competitiveness that will continue to help make our program better. She will make an immediate impact on our team.”
Chindavong won the girl’s overall title in July at the Johnny Miller “Champ” Junior Championship at Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa. She fired an even-par 72 on the North Course. It’s a Junior Golf Association of Northern California premier event that is put on by the Johnny Miller “Champ” Foundation. Miller is a 25-time PGA Tour champion and a World Golf Hall of Fame member.
- 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 Sacramento State graduate member of the California Golf Writers & Broadcasters Association. He was inducted into the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame in 2016.