When Jayden Lizama and Staci Pla won the 2023 Cisco Junior Series presented by the APGA and the Cameron Champ Foundation last summer, they also punched their tickets to Torrey Pines.
Lizama is one of two amateurs playing in the APGA Tour Farmers Insurance Invitational this weekend, and Pla played a pro-am round for the PGA Tour’s Farmers Insurance Open with Collin Morikawa and Alex Morgan, an amazing opportunity captured in the video below.
The girls tournament is returning to The Club at Carlton Woods, site of The Chevron Championship, from April 11-13. The boys will be back at Memorial Park Golf Course in Houston from May 2-5.
Tournament invitations will go out February 2nd for the girls and March 4th for the boys. To be considered for the tournament, join our junior golf database.
The MCI, inspired by the memory of Mack Champ, was created not only to provide an elite competitive experience for junior golfers of diverse backgrounds, but also to serve as a springboard into top-tier tournaments and college scholarships while creating an environment where players and families can build relationships that last a lifetime.
Cameron Champ returned to the place where he learned to love golf in order to share that love with youth from all over the Sacramento area.
Cameron hosted the clinic on Sept. 9 at Foothill Golf Course, where he learned the game from his grandfather Mack. The Champ family now runs the course, which also serves as home base for our foundation, which is committed to diversifying the game and unlocking the potential in youth from underserved and underrepresented communities.
Some of the kids at the clinic were avid golfers looking for tips and inspiration, and others were learning about the game for the first time, but one message was clear to all of them: just like Cameron, you too can achieve great things in the world through hard work and determination.
Many of the juniors in attendance were members of Youth on Course, a national organization that allows youth to pay just $5 for a round of golf at more than 2,000 partner courses. Foothill Golf Course is the home of the Youth on Course Cameron Champ Junior Club and allows YOC members to play unlimited rounds for just $5 per day. Cameron himself was a YOC member and has credited the organization with making the game more affordable when he was a junior golfer.
The foundation’s local efforts include the Cameron Champ Golf Academy at Foothill, which offers affordable junior golf programs (and scholarships for those who can’t afford them); STEM education initiatives; and holiday toy and food drives. The foundation hosts the annual Mack Champ Invitational in Houston, where Cameron now lives. The MCI is the premier tournament for junior golfers from diverse backgrounds, drawing top players from all over the country as well as Ghana, Trinidad and Tobago, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas.
The foundation’s college scholarship program awards more than 20 scholarships annually, including the Chevron | Charlie Sifford Scholarship, which goes to a student from the Sacramento area who demonstrates academic achievement, leadership, financial need, community service, and golf ability.
The PGA Tour’s Fortinet Championship, which will be played this week at Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa Valley, supported the clinic. Cameron won the event at Silverado in 2019, an emotional victory that he dedicated to Mack, who was gravely ill with cancer at the time. Cameron is competing in the tournament again this week.
This is a Sacramento story with a Houston highlight and many more plot developments to come.
Back in 2017, Alaythia Hinds and her father, Lamar, followed Cameron Champ in the Safeway Open at Silverado Resort in Napa. It was the second professional tournament for Cameron, who was still at Texas A&M and played on a sponsor’s exemption. Alaythia, now a 17-year-old rising senior at Pleasant Grove High School in Elk Grove, CA, got to meet Cameron that week and was inspired to see a fellow Sacramento-area native playing at the game’s highest level.
“It was cool being able to connect with someone from the area, seeing how they’ve grown and how they’re succeeding in golf,” she said.
Alaythia’s relationship with the Cameron Champ Foundation has deepened over the years as she has volunteered at foundation-sponsored junior events at Foothill Golf Course and has traveled to Houston to play in all three Mack Champ Invitationals. After finishing 9th in 2021 and 15th in 2022, Alaythia shot even par (73-71) to take first place at this year’s MCI, which was significantly different from the first two iterations of the tournament. For the first time, the tournament was separate from the boys’ event, and it moved to a new course, The Club at Carlton Woods, site of The Chevron Championship, the first major of the LPGA Tour season.
But despite these changes, one thing remained the same: the MCI provided a unique environment for juniors from diverse backgrounds (and their families) to form lasting bonds.
“For all the years I’ve gone to the Mack Champ, I’ve definitely appreciated the experience of meeting a lot of people,” she said. “I get to interact with a lot of the players, more than I do at other tournaments, and I still keep in touch with some of them.”
Lamar contrasted the MCI experience with other junior events.
“It’s great to meet and see other families who are in the same boat you are, who are also trying to navigate the junior golf thing,” he said. “Typically she is the only African American golfer in a tournament. We just did a USGA qualifier, and out of 80 girls, she was the only African American in the field. So the MCI is completely different from our normal tournaments.”
But the MCI is not only about relationships. Alaythia’s victory this year has opened many competitive doors, including the chance to play in the John Shippen National Invitational (June 5-7, Grand Rapids, MI) and exemptions into the IMG Academy Junior World Championship (July 11-13, San Diego) and the Junior PGA Championship (Aug. 1-4, Hot Springs, AR).
“You have to be ranked really high to play in these tournaments,” she said. “Thanks to the opportunity that the Mack Champ Invitational has given me, I am able to compete.”
Closer to home, Alaythia is heading to Stanford for the First Tee National Championship in July and is looking forward to the high school golf season later this year, where she hopes to help Pleasant Grove improve on its fourth-place finish at the 2022 CIF State Girls Golf Championships. Alaythia tied for seventh in the individual standings.
Alaythia still has time to figure out what happens after high school, and though it seems certain golf will continue to take her places, she also excels in the classroom and as a musician. She is a 4.0 student and a violinist who plays with the Sacramento Youth Symphony.
“I do hope to play Division I golf in college,” she said, “and I’m excited to see what opportunities come next.”
On April 13-15 at The Club at Carlton Woods, 47 young women from all over the world competed in front of family, friends and college coaches. From aces and playoffs to high-fives and hugs, the event offered several days of great golf and an abundance of inspiration.
Episode 2: Haven Ward
Haven Ward, the daughter of a single mother, has greatly benefited from the Mack Champ Invitational. Through exemptions and opportunities provided by Jeff Champ and the competitive atmosphere of the tournaments he has organized the last three years, the Atlanta native caught the attention of college coaches, and in fall 2023, she will be attending the University of Denver on a full golf scholarship.
Episode 3: Afi Amezado
Afi Amezado, a 14-year-old from an impoverished pocket of Accra, Ghana, boarded a plane bound for America on Wednesday, April 12, played a practice round at Carlton Woods in Houston on Thursday afternoon, and then competed in the Mack Champ Invitational on Friday and Saturday. She did it all with style, grace, humility and plenty of smiles.
The Mack Champ Invitational girls tournament moved to a major tournament course this year, and the competitors were more than up to the challenge.
After two years at Memorial Park Golf Course in Houston, the MCI for Girls moved to the Nicklaus Course at The Club at Carlton Woods in The Woodlands, a Houston suburb. The course was prepped for the LPGA’s Chevron Championship, the first women’s major of the season, which started the week after the MCI.
Alaythia Hinds, a junior from the Sacramento area, won the 13-to-18 division after making a birdie on the par-5 18th in a playoff against Callia Ward, a sophomore from Albuquerque. Both players were even par after 36 holes of regulation play.
Aleah Shields-Rodipe, a 7th-grader from nearby Conroe, TX, shot 70-79 for a five-over total to win the 12-and-under division. Vivian Lott (Fayetteville, GA) was second at eight over, and Layla Phillips (Harbor City, CA) was third.
In a remarkable turn of events, Shields-Rodipe got the first hole-in-one in MCI history on No. 3 in the first round, and Lott scored her own ace on the 12th hole in the second round.
As always, though, the MCI was about more than golf. The tournament brings together diverse golfers and their families for a chance to build lasting relationships.
Brenna Preap, a senior from Stockton, CA, who will play college golf at Grand Canyon University next year, described the importance of the MCI this way: “People see golf as a rich sport, you have to come in with wealth, but with the Mack Champ, they bring a lot of diverse players in and show that we also are part of the golf world.”
Shields-Rodipe said that she appreciated the chance to play in a tournament with such a diverse field.
At the Mack Champ Invitational, she said, “other people that look like me and play golf like me can have the same opportunities as I do.”
Shiv Parmar, left, and Isaiah Diaz with Cameron Champ.
The 86 boys who came to Houston for the Mack Champ Invitational last week faced stiff competition, rough conditions and a new three-round format.
For the first time, the MCI at Memorial Park Golf Course was an all-boys event. The MCI for Girls will be played April 13-15 at The Club at Carlton Woods, site of The Chevron Championship, the first major of the LPGA Tour season.
Isaiah Diaz with second place finisher Luke An, left, and third place finisher Raiden Orille, center.
Diaz, from Del Rio, shot 65 in the third round to finish 4 over and win the 12-and-under division.
This was the most competitive MCI yet, with 20 rounds of par or better despite the challenging weather. Seventeen of the 25 high school seniors in the field have committed to play college golf. This was also the first year the tournament featured three rounds, which meant players could earn World Amateur Golf Ranking points.
Paul Kerner is joining the Cameron Champ Foundation as Director of Coaching and Community Engagement.
Kerner recently graduated from the PGA Golf Management program at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, where he was a member of the golf team and Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity. He will be working out of Foothill Golf Course and will lead the development of our foundation’s junior golf programs.
Originally from Crofton, MD, he says he is looking forward to playing an integral role in the foundation’s mission of making golf accessible to underserved and underrepresented communities.
“As a minority golfer and graduate of an HBCU with many years of experience in the golf industry, I understand the need to diversify not only the people who play golf, but also the people who work in this amazing sport,” he said. “I look forward to increasing minority participation in the Sacramento area and beyond, and to making golf a more inclusive environment.”