Playday: 36 SCGA Juniors Found Willing Mentors at Storied LACC
It’s 5:45 a.m. in Cerritos, Calif., and 17-year-old Josiah Joseph is awakened by his father. It only takes the teenager a few moments to remember why he’s up so early. Josiah is an SCGA Junior who is about to play The Los Angeles Country Club in a Mentor Play Day. “I’m pretty tired and nervous to play in front of all these people,” Josiah says. “But the thrill of the day ahead is getting me going. I don’t have words to explain how excited I am.”
Across town, another SCGA Junior, Sophia Martinez, is anxious to make the bus on time on her way to LACC. “I’m just excited to meet the members and enjoy the course,” she says. She laces up her shoes, takes a deep breath and heads out.
LACC, one of the SCGA’s founding clubs in 1899 has hosted 10 Mentor Play Days over the years and has donated proceeds from the 2017 Walker Cup to help significantly expand SCGA Junior programming. Their history with the SCGA and the Junior Golf Foundation is long and storied. So while the Play Day this past March wasn’t anything new, having 36 kids on the grounds just a few months before the U.S. Open certainly was.
As they near the course, Sophia finds herself in a position to give advice to her peer, Chelsea Hikichi, a 14-year-old SCGA Junior about to play in her first ever Mentor Play Day.
“I know you’re nervous,” Sophia says. “But just focus on having fun and don’t stress about how you’re going to play. It’s the experience that matters.”
Chelsea’s nerves ease even as her excitement continues to grow.
And Sophia was right. No matter how these juniors played, the experience is one that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.
Shortly after arriving at the course, Sophia is warmly welcomed by her LACC member and her mentors for the day, Wendy Sullivan and Geraldine Yuhl. “They were great hosts and wonderful golfers,” Sophia recalls. “The best advice Wendy gave me was to always be kind to everyone you meet, because you never know what they’re going through or how they may be able to help you in the future.”
As LACC prepares for June’s championship, setup has already begun, and Sophia laughed about her embarrassing but favorite moment of the day: “I hit one of the grandstands! Thankfully, it popped out and I was able to hit a clean second shot.”
Josiah meets his mentors, Dick Shortz, LACC U.S. Open Co-Chair, and Dave, USGA Senior Director of Transformational Initiatives, and immediately takes their advice to heart. “Go big or go home,” Josiah smiled. “Golf is a game that humbles you. Sometimes I tend to play worse because I overthink and play tentatively. Dave told me that if I’m going to do something, go all out. That stuck with me. As soon as I got home, I went straight to the backyard to work on what I had learned.”
Watching the U.S. Open on television will now be completely different for Josiah. “I can’t wait to be watching it with my dad and uncle and be able to say, ‘I did this on this hole!’ I have such a strong connection to the course now.”
Sophia and Josiah were two of the 36 kids who had a day to remember at LACC. And those 36 kids are just a small part of the tens of thousands that the SCGA and LACC have impacted and will continue to impact for decades to come.
“To play the course that will be hosting the U.S. Open in June? It means everything,” Josiah said. “It’s a part of my life I can look back on and remember how special that was. A lot of people don’t get that experience, but 36 juniors do because of SCGA and LACC.”