A wasted opportunity has turned into a source of motivation for Tyler Griggs, a two-time Valley Oak League MVP and now Manteca Bulletin All-Area Boys Golfer of the Year.
East Union’s ace golfer who famously won the Drive, Chip and Putt Finals at Augusta National two years ago made his first appearance in the NCGA/CIF State Northern California Regional Championships on May 21. It took place at Woodbrige Golf and Country Club — an all-too-familiar track where he’s had some success in the junior circuit.
“I did think that just because I had played so well there growing up that I could have qualified (for state),” Griggs said, “it just wasn’t meant to be. I didn’t play to my potential out there.”
His successful sophomore campaign ended with a 7-over-par 78, a ho-hum round compared to the lofty standards Griggs set for himself. He was on the right track to start, going 1-under through five holes. Five bogeys and a double over the next seven holes knocked him out of contention for the state tournament held at San Gabriel Country Club.
In top form for much of the season, Griggs believes he’ll come out of the humbling experience even stronger.
“You learn more from defeats than winning,” Griggs said. “It adds a chip on my shoulder. I’ve been playing pretty well but I haven’t made it to state yet. It’s definitely a goal I want to accomplish.”
He has already accomplished plenty.
Griggs’ biggest moment this past school year happened months before the spring season had even started. He made two visits to UCLA over the winter, attended a men’s basketball game while there and committed to the Pac-12 program in December. Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Georgia and Oregon were among the others he considered.
Griggs has since been sporting Bruins gear proudly while roaming the links.
“It’s definitely a big decision, and I started picking out colleges my eighth-grade year,” Griggs said. “One of the main things was I wanted to go to a big-name college at a big city. L.A. is a beautiful city, and they’re members of six different country clubs in the area.”
During the season, Griggs marched through the regular season against worthy challengers, taking on a stacked Oakdale team and Lathrop senior Christian Guzman — the 2017 All-Area Golfer of the Year and NorCal qualifier — along the way.
Guzman got the better of Griggs in team duals at Old River and Manteca Park golf courses. Griggs, whose season best was a 4-under 36 at the restructured front nine at Manteca Park, turned up his game when the stakes were higher.
In the VOL Championships, he fired a 2-over 74 at Diablo Grande to secure his second straight MVP award, finishing two strokes better than the runner-up Guzman.
The following week, Griggs placed fourth overall in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III Tournament at Morgan Creek Golf Club in Roseville, carding a 71. He was just one of two golfers from the area to advance to the SJS Masters Championships, joining Southern Athletic League MVP and SJS Division VI medalist Danton Indelicato of Ripon Christian.
The Masters tourney at The Reserve at Spanos Park proved grueling for the contestants because of the swirling winds in the morning. His even-par 72 was good for a share of second place and a spot in NorCals, topped only by Davis’ Griffin Long (71). Griggs birdied the sixth hole to start but began to struggle.
It was on the 12th hole that he vaulted himself back into contention and executed his best shot of the season. He drove his ball to a fairway bunker but followed with a high-arching approach shot against the wind and stuck the green 10-15 feet below the hole. Griggs rolled the putt for a birdie to move back to even par through seven holes.
“That worked out kind of well,” Griggs said. “I tried cutting the corner and I didn’t carry it all the way. The wind was really brutal, and honestly, I didn’t know what to do next. I just clubbed up a whole bunch and I guess you can say I got lucky. I hit a good putt and birdied. It was a good momentum booster.
“Shooting a 72 at Masters, I’m probably the most proud of that one,” Griggs added. “It was so windy that 72 out there is a very respectable score.”
There are no summer breaks for golfers of Griggs’ caliber. He continues to add to his already-impressive resumé, recently qualifying for the U.S. Junior Amateur for the first time. The event takes place July 15-21 at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J., and the final two days will be televised on FS1.
“After the high school season, I’ve been playing pretty well,” Griggs said. “NorCals is one of my poorest performances of late, but I now know I’m good enough to make it there. I know that I have to work harder, and hopefully my game will be in good shape at that time.”
Christian Guzman, Lathrop Sr.
Danton Indelicato, Ripon Christian Jr.
Nico Ilardi, Ripon So.
Kyle Dorland, East Union Sr.
Matsua Garcia-Mendez, Manteca Sr.