The Story Behind Junior Champion, Nikki Chindavong

It’s been a very good year of golf for Nikki Chindavong.

“Yes, definitely. This year, a lot has happened,” said Chindavong, a Fairfield resident, and a member of First Tee – Greater Sacramento for the last eight years.

In May, she tied for individual medalist honors with her teammate at Rodriguez High School of Cordelia, Darla May Dela Torre, each player shooting 77 at Cypress Lakes Golf Course in Vacaville, as the Mustangs won the season-ending Monticello Empire League tournament and title in the shortened spring season.

In June, she won the girls 14-15 division of the Johnny Miller “Champ” Junior Classic, a two-day, 36-hole Junior Golf Association of Northern California premier event, at Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa. Chindavong opened with a 76 on the South Course and followed that with a 75 in the final round on the North Course. The annual tournament is hosted by the Johnny Miller “Champ” Foundation.

In July, she won the girls 15-18 division of the U.S. Kids Golf Teen Series, a two-day, 36-hole event, in Fairfield. Chindavong shot 71 in the first round at Paradise Valley Golf Course and had a 75 in the second round at Rancho Solano Golf Course.

Also in July, she placed seventh in the girls 12-19 division of the American Junior Golf Association’s AJGA Junior at Copper Valley. Chindavong had rounds of 74, 71, and 73 at The Golf Club at Copper Valley in Copperopolis, Calif.

In another event in July, she qualified through the First Tee and finished 13th in the girls 15-18 division at the Optimist International Junior Golf Championship. She had rounds of 79, 75, and 75 at Doral Resort and Spa in Miami, Florida.

“I’m pretty confident in what I’ve been working on,” said Chindavong, 15, who also plays in Junior Tour of Northern California events.

“Right now, it’s just a process of putting it together and then working on my mental game to top it off.”

There was one other highlight to Chindavong’s super month of July – her selection to play in the 2021 PURE Insurance Championship Impacting The First Tee. It’s a PGA Tour Champions event, Sept. 20-26 at Pebble Beach Golf Links and Spyglass Hill Golf Course, and is hosted by the Monterey Peninsula Foundation. The announcement of the 81 First Tee participants, who are from 48 First Tee chapters around the country, was made by First Tee and PGA Tour Champions.

The teens are paired with a PGA Tour Champions player and amateurs from the business world, with First Tee participants, boys and girls ranging in age from 15 to 19, competing for the Pro-Junior Team title, according to The event, now in its 18th year, is televised by Golf Channel. According to

“Throughout the week the teens apply the life and leadership skills learned from First Tee programs during the one-of-a-kind event where they are paired with a PGA Tour Champions player.

“Participants were selected by a national panel of judges based on their personal growth and life skills learned through First Tee’s programs, as well as their playing ability.”

Four other teens from First Tee – Greater Sacramento was also selected to play the PURE Insurance Championship Impacting The First Tee:

  • Hannah Harrison, a senior at Granite Bay High School.
  • Ethan Lu, a recent graduate of John F. Kennedy High School in Sacramento. He will start UC Davis this fall and major in biochemistry.
  • Ellie Sand, a recent graduate of Oak Ridge High School in El Dorado Hills. She is planning to attend Santa Clara University and play on the golf team. She will major in computer science.
  • Haley Wong, a junior at Oak Ridge High School.

“Congratulations to the 81 participants who have been selected to play and represent First Tee on a national stage,” Greg McLaughlin, First Tee CEO, said in a report at “We are proud to welcome a participant from First Tee – Morocco into the field this year who is joining the other teens in earning this opportunity through hard work and commitment to academic and personal growth through our programs. Thank you to our partners − PURE Insurance, PGA Tour Champions, Pebble Beach Resorts, Monterey Peninsula Foundation, and Golf Channel − for their commitment to young people and helping us provide this opportunity to these deserving teens.”

The first and second rounds are at Pebble Beach Golf Links and Spyglass Hill Golf Course. Twenty-three juniors, based on their 36-hole scores, will advance to the final round at Pebble Beach Golf Links. The tournament will crown one male and one female First Tee junior champion, said.

“I feel that this is more than just for me, because I’m not only honoring myself and my family, but I’m also honoring and representing First Tee – Greater Sacramento,” said Chindavong, who plays out of Paradise Valley and Rancho Solano, and is enrolled as a junior in Rodriguez’s early college program.

“I’m very excited to just test the waters and see all the skills and just really learn from that experience. I think that it’s going to be a great event, being alongside the pros and seeing other juniors there. But it’s really about what can I take away from that. How can I learn and become a better person and a golfer as I move on to the future.”

There is an application process, which includes an interview, to be considered for the PURE Insurance Championship Impacting The First Tee.

“I really do feel honored, going through the process,” said Chindavong. “It’s been really exciting and unreal.

“It’s about us representing a bigger organization, which is First Tee – Greater Sacramento.”

Chindavong joined First Tee – Greater Sacramento at the age of 7. According to Angie Dixon, the organization’s Executive Director, Chindavong has been a member of First Tee – Greater Sacramento’s Junior Tour for the past four years, “where she has excelled as a player, earned Ace level in her life skills, and is on the Junior Life Skills Coaching Committee.”

Last year, Chindavong was awarded one of the chapter’s highest honors, the Core Value Award, because of her commitment and use of the First Tee Nine Core Values, said Angie Dixon.

Chindavong is very active with First Tee – Greater Sacramento.

“I’ve known Angie ever since I was about 5 or 6 when I first started in junior golf. And just to see how the program has developed and reached more junior golfers throughout the years is really amazing. Because the First Tee, even though it is focused around golf, it’s more about life skills, teaching you how to become a better person, how to be a good friend, how to really become engaged in your community, and giving back to your community when you have the time and when you become of age,” she said.

According to its website,

“First Tee – Greater Sacramento has positively impacted the young people in our area since 1983 with youth development programs running throughout the year, reaching over 58,000 young people annually. Today, First Tee – Greater Sacramento is one of First Tee’s largest chapters. We are a leader in the field of programs for young people and the disabled. First Tee – Greater Sacramento serves juniors from the ages of 3-18 with a variety of programs including summer camps, after school & Saturday programs, California Eagles (Special Olympics), adaptive physical education classes, a competitive junior golf tour, Swing Club for the Blind, First Tee School Program, and much more. First Tee – Greater Sacramento has 11 program locations in the greater Sacramento area.”

Chindavong works with Tim Berg, a PGA golf professional, at the Bing Maloney Golf Complex in Sacramento. Berg is a two-time Pacific Northwest Open Champion, two-time Pacific Northwest Senior Open Champion, the 1988 Pacific Northwest Senior Player of the Year, and was selected to the Pacific

Northwest PGA Hall of Fame. He has played in four National Senior PGA Championships and the 1988 U.S. Senior Open at Medinah Country Club in Illinois.

Chindavong has been the recipient of the Morton Golf Foundation Junior Golf Development Grant for the last four years. According to “MGF Junior Golf Development Grants provide financial support for families to help their children learn to compete, develop skills, enhance core values, and build lasting relationships through the game of golf.”

Chindavong was the Monticello Empire League’s Player of the Year and was named to the All-MEL team in 2019 as a freshman after shooting a 77 and securing medalist honors at the league’s No. 2 tournament at Rancho Solano. She advanced through the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III tournament at The Ridge Golf Club in Auburn and the SJS Masters tournament at The Reserve at Spanos Park in Stockton.

Chindavong carded a 79 and finished in a tie for 39th place at the Northern California Championships, played at El Macero Country Club in Yolo County.

* 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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