By Karen Billing
Rancho Santa Fe golfer Jamie Cheatham won the prestigious American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) ClubCorp Mission Hills Desert Junior tournament on June 20, joining the lofty ranks of past champions such as Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
The tournament was played at the Mission Hills Country Club’s Dinah Shore Tournament Course in Rancho Mirage from June 17-20.
“This is definitely the biggest win of my career,” said Jamie, 17, an incoming senior at Torrey Pines High School.
At Mission Hills Jamie got off to a strong start, shooting a 68 in the first round and tied for the lead. At the end of the second round he was still tied, hitting an even par 72.
“I played consistently the last day and kept myself in it,” Jamie said. “Coming into the last hole I had to chip to make the playoff and somehow I found the hole.”
In the three-hole, three-player playoff, he and the other two players were tight through the first two holes, each making par.
“On the last hole, the other two didn’t get set up very well,” Jamie said. “I ended up with a two-putt to win and I birdied to win.”
Jamie came away with a satisfying victory, a trophy and several prizes.
A graduate of R. Roger Rowe School, Jamie started golfing at 5 years old, when his family lived in Argentina for a year, the country where his mother was raised.
As a youngster, he didn’t really think much of the sport — he was more into video games — until he was 11 years old and the family made a return trip to Argentina in 2008.
“I played a round of golf with an old friend and I remembered how much fun it was and how much I loved playing,” Jamie said. “I came back (to Rancho Santa Fe) and wanted to keep playing.”
On average, Jamie is playing golf six times a week at his home course, The Bridges. He also takes lessons from coach Chris Mayson at Maderes Country Club in Poway.
“I work on the mental game a lot with (Mayson), I’ve come a long way with him,” Jamie said, noting he sees the results in his tournament wins, which give him a big boost of confidence.
Jamie said that ball striking is the strongest aspect of his game.
“I drive the ball pretty well and keep it in play,” Jamie said. “I’m pretty consistent.”
Lately he has been working more on shorter game shots such as 50 yards in from the green, as he knows improving his game there will help him compete at the next level.
This spring, Jamie was the captain of the Torrey Pines High School golf team and helped them shoot a CIF Sectional record of 10 under par at the CIF Sectional tournament. A solid student, Jamie also has a 4.2 GPA heading into his senior year.
This summer, his biggest tournament will be the Callaway Junior World Championships at Torrey Pines Golf Course. Held July 14-18, the tournament includes 1,200 participants representing 56 countries and 42 states.
Jamie has his goals set high, to leverage his golfing abilities into a first-class education and a chance to play with a NCAA contender.
“I want to play at a high level division 1 school, I’ll be making a college decision pretty soon,” Jamie said. “I will continue playing at the high school level and hope to continue to improve and work hard and ultimately give myself a viable option to play professionally.”