The Wishbone Brawl is Back, and Bigger Than Ever
In this year’s Brawl at Goat Hill Park, women won’t just play with the men, they’ll play against them
By Matt Ginella
It’s that time of year again. As the rest of us finalize Thanksgiving plans, pray for decent travel weather and minimal family drama, the crew at Goat Hill Park in Oceanside, Calif., is prepping the venue for the sixth annual Wishbone Brawl.
On Nov. 11, at a 4,500-yard municipal golf course where the motto is “World Class for Working Class,” one of golf’s most charming events will begin a range clinic at 11 a.m.—gates open at 9:30 for the pre-gamers—and the tournament tips at noon. Tickets are $50 for adults, kids are free and dogs are welcome. There will be food and drink (Truly Hard Seltzer is a sponsor). Parking is limited, so carpooling or Ubering is encouraged. All proceeds will benefit North County Junior Golf Association and Goat Hill Park’s Junior Caddie and Leadership Academy.
This year’s Brawl will feature professionals and elite amateurs using persimmon woods. There will be no gallery ropes, with the crowd of 1,000+ strolling the fairways alongside the players. Goat Hill regulars will be out in force in varying capacities: the referee will be “The Professor,” Peter Beames; “Jay-Bird” Montoya will be running the recently renovated pro shop; John (“The Commish”) Wardrup is in charge of security. The course will be in mint condition thanks to superintendent Laz Flores and his wingmen David Gomez and Fernie Ramos. This tireless crew is proud of the look of the new 18th hole bunkering and recently installed fire pit to the left of the first tee. And of course, caretaker John Ashworth, the G.O.A.T. of the Goat, is the host of this epic event.
(Geoff Ogilvy left of flag, Xander Schauffele holding flag, John Ashworth far-right)
“It’s kind of a homemade backyard hang-out scene,” says Ashworth. “Winning and losing doesn’t really matter, it’s just about having a blast, getting the whole community together and doing something special for the kids.”
The players mostly agree with Ashworth, but they are also there to compete. Xander Schauffele (seven PGA Tour wins, Olympic gold medal, No. 6 in the world) will team up with Chris Riley, the PGA Tour winner and Tiger Woods’s partner at the 2004 Ryder Cup. They’re squaring off against Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open champion, and Colin Featherstone, a local and current Korn Ferry Tour player. And then there is this year’s most intriguing team: Jasmine and Janae Leovao, 19-year-old twins who grew up at Goat Hill Park and are now sophomores at Long Beach State, where they recently helped the 49ers win back-to-back tournaments.
(Left to right: Ada Lee, Janae Leovao, John Ashworth, Jasmine Leovao, Annabelle Lee)
“I think the twins could win the whole damn thing,” says the Professor, who once played on the European Tour and has written books on golf instruction. “They’re that good and they’re not afraid.”
At Goat Hill Park, distance is deemphasized and the premium is on precision and putting, making it the ideal venue in at which women don’t just play with the men—they play against them. The Brawl’s format is stroke play, best-ball of each twosome. The lowest score takes home the trophy, which is, in fact, a large metal wishbone.
“Our initial reaction was to be kind of scared,” says Jasmine Leovao, Zooming next to her sister from their dorm room at Long Beach State. “We’ve always been a part of the Wishbone, but playing in it is a whole different story, and in front of that many people is definitely going to be different than what we’re used to.”
Schauffele and Featherstone played at San Diego State, Riley lives locally and has been the men’s golf coach at University of San Diego and Ogilvy ended the 2019 Wishbone Brawl with a walk-off ace in the first playoff hole, but the Leovao twins will definitely be the crowd favorites. They are products of the North County Junior Golf Association, and in previous Wishbone Brawls they’ve served as scorers, standard bearers and caddies. Last year they didn’t get to watch the tournament because they were helping their older brother, Justin, run the hot dog stand.
“It’s kind of a dream come true to do this,” says Janae. “And I know that for this tournament, there are a lot of people who believe in us and believe that we can even win, which, to me, is slightly delusional [laughs], but it’s super cool that they’re rooting for us and that they’ll be proud of us no matter what.”
For a deeper dive on this year’s Wishbone Brawl, we’ve prepared a Fire Pit Podcast in which you’ll hear from Ashworth, Beames, Featherstone, the Leovao twins and more.
And here’s a video recap of last year’s Wishbone Brawl in which Schauffele and Dean Wilson beat Ogilvy and Fred Couples: