The 2016-17 academic year at Bishops Gate Golf Academy (BGGA) has come to a close as students head off to start their collegiate golf careers or to play in summer tournaments for the underclassmen. As sad as the end of the year can be, it’s a time to celebrate the amazing accomplishments of BGGA student-athletes.
It was a year BGGA saw many achievements. Eighty-three students graced the campus to receive golf instruction from the best coaches in junior golf on world-class facilities.
From those 83 students came 27 wins, 64 top-3 finishes and 135 top 10s.
The results come from the personalized and periodized training model used at BGGA. The system allows students to effectively and efficiently maximize their time in order to achieve the highest level of success.
At BGGA it isn’t all about lifting trophies. Improvements in a student’s game are also celebrated.
Thirteen students saw more than a five-shot improvement in their scoring average.
“It’s not all about golf results,” said BGGA Master Coach Jonathan Yarwood. “A lot of students have improved in their character, their academics or certain aspects of their game.”
While BGGA could celebrate the improvements of every student in attendance, here are some achievements this spring that stood out from the crowd.
Julian Perico was named the BGGA 2017 Player of the Year and it’s not hard to see why. Perico had a lot of success in South America this spring and has made a name for himself.
“Julian’s results speak for themselves,” said BGGA Director of Golf Kevin Smeltz. “He defended the South American Junior, almost qualified for the Masters at the Latin American Amateur, won a professional event in Peru and qualified for a team even in Japan. It’s incredible. He’s a great kid and loves golf. He just loves to play and has a great attitude.”
April was a good month for Chun Yan Leong as he recorded a win and a second place on the IJGT. Leong defeated his roommate Christian Tupamahu in a playoff to take the title at the Island Showcase. His second-place finish came at The King Classic.
“Chun Yan has a great stature for golf,” said Yarwood. “He’s a neat, strong little guy. We created really simple game around him. He swings it as good and controls the ball as well as a tour player in my opinion. He’s had some good success. To see him get into a playoff, shoot under par again versus shooting in the mid 80s when he came is a testament to what we’re doing.
The difference in Christian Tupamahu’s game was seen this spring. To come into Bishops Gate where his game was and to walk out with a second-place finish in a playoff at the IJGT Island Showcase is remarkable.
“Christian was a 90s shooter when he came,” said Yarwood. “He was a very raw player with not much golf experience. He didn’t play a lot back home in Indonesia. We spent a lot of time improving him technically, but one of the major themes for him was improving his golf craft. We spent a lot of time getting some art, feel and instinct in his game. He’s really benefited from the different types of practice that make BGGA unique. To see him shoot 1 under par in a tournament to almost win it and lose in a playoff was absolutely incredible.”
John Daly II was consistently at the top of the leaderboard in his age group this spring. He started at BGGA in January and quickly found success. Daly won five events on the IJGT as well as three second place finishes in the Boys 14 and Under Division.
“John Daly is one of my favorite players to watch, amateur or professional,” said Yarwood. “He plays like a kid should play. It’s refreshing to see a kid who loves competing. He loves golf and having a match. He has such great golf skill.”
It’s been a successful spring for Ying-Ting Hsieh with three top finishes. She won the IJGT King Classic and placed second at the IJGT Florida Open and the IJGT Southeast Tour Championship. Each round in those events was below 75 for Hsieh, including a 69.
“Ying-Ting hits it really far for her age,” said Smeltz. “She could probably be the longest on the LPGA Tour at the moment. I’ve seen her club head speed up to 106 mph. She has so much talent, and she hasn’t even come close to seeing how well she can play. She has a great attitude and practices hard.”
Carson Barbe had his fair share of success while at BGGA. He won the IJGT Winter Classic in January and then followed that up scoring a 66 in the first round of the Georgia Open.
“Carson is a class act,” said Yarwood. “He’s one of the best competitors you’ll ever see. He came with a robust game from Texas but was rough in a lot of places. Technically we gave him a simple blueprint. It wasn’t a rebuild with Carson – we created a more consistent player which is what he wanted. He shot 66 twice in tournaments and one round was almost a perfect round of golf. He hit 18 greens and 14 fairways.”
Xavier Marcoux won the IJGT King Classic on April 2. He bested the field by six shots with his 6-under 138. Marcoux shot 68 and 70 to take the title.
“Xavier is a model student,” said Yarwood. “He came in shooting in the high 70s and low 80s. He’s a great student and has really applied himself. He takes the time management skills from his school into his golf. We plugged a system around him by creating a technically better swing to keep it really simple. He can control the ball much better. We sharpened up his short game and he’s gotten stronger and fitter. He’s followed the process and the outcome has taken care of itself. He shot 6-under par in a tournament for two rounds while sleeping on the lead.”
Luigi Wong’s improvements haven’t gone unnoticed as he’ll be playing for the Philippines National Team this summer at the SEA Games. Wong recently finished fourth at the IJGT Southeast Tour Championship with a 5-under 139. Wong shot 70 and 69 to card that finish.
“Luigi came in two years ago as not the greatest golfer we’ve ever seen,” said Smeltz. “He just qualified for the Philippine National Team and will represent his country in the SEA Games. It’s a huge event run by the IOC. For him to make that team was off the charts. He has a great build for golf.”
It’s incredible how far Adam Podkonicky has come in his time at BGGA, considering he hasn’t been playing golf that long. He shot 69 and 70 for a 5-under 139 to win the IJGT South Carolina Open in April.
“Adam was a tennis player in the Czech Republic,” said Yarwood. “It was only two or three years ago that he tried golf. He came over here a very green player, and we built a nice game around him. We entered him in his first tournament around Christmas and he finished second and shot under par which was brilliant for his first attempt. He has gone on to shoot 5 under par at a tournament to win it. It’s amazing.”
This Spring, Thomas Pfoestl has recorded two third place finishes at IJGT events. The first one came at The King Classic on April 2 after he carded rounds of 75 and 70 for a 1-over 145. The other top finish came at the Island Showcase on April 23 where rounds of 71 and 74 led to a 3-over 145 and another third-place finish.
“Thomas came in as a little bit of a hot head and can be emotional at times,” said Smeltz. “He’s done a good job of controlling that and his results have improved. He received Most Improved last year and was pretty close again this year. It’s been more attitude and behavior driven.”
Drago Zhao has had quite a bit of success in his 14 and under age group. This spring he placed second twice and won the IJGT Florida Open on Apr 30. Zhao had two rounds in the 70s for a 9-over 153 to beat the field by four shots.
“Drago is a good Chinese player and very strong for his age, to his advantage,” said Yarwood. “We’ve created a robust game around him so that he can grow with his game, so as the competition catches up with him in stature, he’s not going to be left behind. He’s improved as a player, as a person and improved his English.”
Kristine Yin captured first place at the FCWT Jack Hopson Invitational at Disney Palm on April 20 with a 4-over 148. Yin carded two rounds of 75 and 73 to take the top spot on the leaderboard.
“Kristine has improved a lot,” said Smeltz. “Everyone saw how much talent she had when she came in and everyone wanted her in their group. She still hasn’t reached it yet but has improved. She doesn’t realize how good she can be. She’s a great person to be around.”
It’s not always about tournament results and Greg Shen’s improvement is proof of that. He reduced his scoring average this year by six and a half shots.
“Greg couldn’t break 90 in summer camp two years ago,” said Smeltz. “He shot even par at Falcon’s Fire recently. He was at 3 under with three holes to go but he started thinking about his score and finished at even. For him to shoot even par is incredible.”
Sissy Wang was at the top of the Most Improved Player Award list this year. It’s apparent that’s she’s making great strides in her game.
“Sissy is the biggest success story of my POD,” said Yarwood. “She came in with very poor technique and very new to the game. She’s now technically the most proficient person in our POD in just seven months work. She looks as good as a tour player in all areas. We’ve not put any emphasis on her scoring because she has very little experience in playing. She’s got a strengthening program and is going to spend more time at tournaments. She’s gone from being a 100s shooter at one stage to shooting 79 in a tournament. It’s a mark in the sand for sure.”
As students head to the next path in their golfing career this summer, they can look back at BGGA and know their time and effort made a difference in their future.