Updated December 5, 2023 - 12:04 pm
RJ Arone had plenty to be thankful for during the Thanksgiving holiday after the month of golf he experienced in November.
The 17-year-old won his first Southern Nevada Golf Association major at the Clark County Amateur on Nov. 19 and finished second in the Notah Begay Junior Golf National Championship in Louisiana on Nov. 6. Both results have him optimistic about where his game is headed in 2024.
“This last year or so is when I really started to get it going and posted a lot of really good scores,” Arone said. “The Clark County Am is definitely a big one in the repertoire because it’s SNGA and not (Southern Nevada Junior Golf Association).”
His step up from junior events to the championship field at the Clark County Amateur came with its challenges. His first-round 67 at Boulder Creek gave him the lead, and he held on during a second round with strong winds that made the course close to unplayable. A 6-over 78 was enough for a one-shot win over Andrew Hawk.
“It was ridiculous,” he said of the conditions. “I was just trying to get the ball to work. I didn’t care where it went.”
In retrospect, Arone said the wind was a blessing.
“It was an experience, and I probably woulnd’t be saying this at the time, but I’m glad it was windy,” he said. “I need to know what that’s like.”
Arone also experienced the pressure of playing with TV cameras following him at the Begay tournament when he played in the final group at Koasati Pines in Kinder, Louisiana. His efforts will be broadcast Dec. 12 when the tournament is shown on the Golf Channel.
“The Notah Begay was just a great experience, but it was tough with the cameras,” Arone said. “A lot of nerves.”
Those pressure situations are experiences he can learn from. His father Ralph Arone, the only coach RJ has had since he started playing as a toddler, told his son taking his nerves and turning them into confidence will help in the future.
RJ Arone’s next steps are mapped out. He will finish his senior year at Bishop Gorman and then play golf at the University of Michigan. Wolverines coaches Zach Barlow and Matt Hoffman, who had their eyes on Arone in November, like what they’ve seen.
They texted their future golfer that the more you win, the more you win.
“So that was really cool,” Arone said.
Arone has no experience playing in the cold he’ll encounter at times in Michigan. He sees it as just another challenge to take on.
“I’m a little scared about that, but it’s also good,” Arone said. “Like my mom says, to play different terrains, to play different areas is good. It’s just another stepping stone. College is not the end of my goals.”
Henderson’s Yana Wilson is among 12 players invited to the United States Golf Association’s working group and practice sessions for next summer’s Curtis Cup, a top amateur competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. Eight players from the group will be selected to play in the matches set for Aug. 30 to Sept. 1 at Sunningdale Golf Club in Berkshire, England.
Practice sessions will be held Jan. 19 and 20 at Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Fla., and Pine Tree Golf Club in Boynton Beach, Fla.
Wilson, 17, is among the youngest in a group made up of primarily college players. She already has significant international experience playing for the U.S. after being on Junior Solheim Cup and Junior Ryder Cup teams that played in Spain and Italy, respectively, in September.
Tee times are available at Cascata Golf Club in Boulder City to help the SNJGA. A portion of green fees for play on Dec. 19 will go to the organization, with a special rate of $165 that includes golf, cart, caddie and breakfast at one of the region’s top courses. Details at southernnevadajuniorgolf.com.
Greg Robertson covers golf for the Review-Journal. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.