After a grueling 12-hour day that included 36 holes played in strong winds and chilling temperatures, the College of the Canyons men’s golf team persevered to claim the 2017 California Community College Athletic Association State Championship on Monday.
The Cougars shot a five-man score of 761 at Cypress Ridge Golf Course in Arroyo Grande to finish an impressive 24 strokes ahead of second place Cypress College (785). Ventura College (789) took third and Riverside City College (794) finished in fourth place.
Folsom Lake College (799), Chabot College (818), Reedley College (822) and Modesto College (824) rounded out the field of eight schools.
The state title is the eighth in program history, with all coming under head coach Gary Peterson. COC also won state championships in 1993, 2000, 2002, 2006, 2008, 2013 and 2015.
However, the 24-stroke margin of victory at the state finals represented a program best for the Cougars.
“Our boys just didn’t give up, and that’s why we won,” said Peterson, pointing to the adverse conditions that included 30 mph winds, temperatures in the high 40s, and a 6,803-yard hill ridden course, combined with an array of difficult pin placements.
“Sometimes people just don’t understand what a grind is out there,” added Peterson about the tournament that teed of at 7:30 a.m. and didn’t end until approximately 8:15 p.m. “But I was extremely proud of our boys for not giving up, and finishing the season.”
The Cougars jumped out to an early six-stroke lead after the morning round, thanks in large part to the two-under-par score of 70 turned in by COC sophomore Jaeyeol Kim.
That mark proved to be the lowest of the day, and helped set the tone for what turned out to be a decisive victory.
Nevertheless, Canyons did face some early morning struggles as two golfers turned in rounds in the 80s.
“Jae’s opening round really saved us,” said Peterson.
All five of COC’s scoring players then turned in afternoon rounds in the 70s to help clinch the state championship in convincing fashion.
Kim finished the event with a combined score of 151 (70/81) to tie with teammate Michael Lindgren (75/76) for COC’s top spot.
Lindgren and Kim were both named to the CCCAA All-State team after placing fifth and sixth, respectively, in the tournament’s individual standings.
Travis Fay (78/76) and Rickey Hoefert (76/78) were next in line for Canyons at 154.
Daniel Taplin ended his day at 156 (82/74) after shooting a team-best score of 74 in the afternoon round.
Ben Campbell, who was the 2016 CCCAA individual state champion, finished the event at 158 (80/78) despite battling flu-like symptoms throughout both rounds.
“I think Jae and Ben remembered the heartbreak of coming in second place last season,” said Peterson, about finishing the 2016 season as runner up to state champion Reedley College. “But everyone came was ready to play.”
Indeed, Peterson has established an unsurpassed tradition of excellence at COC. Over the last five years the program has captured three state titles (2013, 2015, 2017) while finishing as runner up on two occasions (2014, 2016).
Canyons has also claimed two individual state championships along the way, with Sidney Wolf winning in 2014 and Campbell taking the top spot in 2016.
“As a program, we’ve been successful,” said Peterson. “And I think our guys have learned from being in that position that there is a certain level of expectation that comes with playing at COC, and that drives them.
“On Monday, they ascended to the occasion and I was proud of them for that.”
The COC Athletics department now boasts a combined 30 state championships (16 team and 14 individual) across 16 intercollegiate sports programs.