Every year, West Ranch boys golf is a top prospect for the Foothill League title. This season was a little different, however, with just one senior in the starting six.
The Wildcats were populated by four sophomores, one of which was Ben Valdez, this year’s All-SCV Boys Golf Player of the Year.
Before the league season began, West Ranch coach Jeff Holen praised his lineup for being resilient.
“What I like about them is we don’t make big mistakes across the board,” he said in March. “If we have a big number, we don’t compound that with another big number. We’re able to forget about it and come back.”
Valdez was one of the best examples the Cats could offer to demonstrate that sentiment. After failing to finish in the top three in the first two league meet, he was runner-up in the third meet of the season.
In the fourth meet, however, Valdez had a breakthrough. He shot a 6-under 66 to win medalist.
“I was talking to my coach, he just said each shot is new, just keep your focus each shot,” Valdez said after the meet, in April. “So that really helped me mentally.”
Valdez went on to win the sixth league meet, carding a 1-over 73 for the win. He ended the season with a 75 average and an overall score of 375 to take the individual Foothill League crown.
Valdez and the Wildcats pushed all season for a trip to Poppy Hills for the CIF State Finals but fell short when they claimed third place in the CIF-Southern Section Team Championships.
Not making it to Poppy Hills can serve as motivation, though. And just like Valdez overcame his slow start, the Wildcats can overcome this season’s finish and thrive.
“Just staying patient,” Valdez said of his season after winning the league title. “Just letting the good rounds come. I knew it was there, I knew I could get it out of me, I just had to wait for them and stay confident.”
Favian Busnawi, West Ranch, senior
Busnawi was leading the Foothill League individual standings up until Ben Valdez’s 6-under medalist win. He won Foothill League Meet No. 1 and tied for runner-up in the second meet. With a second-place finish in the final individual league standings, he finished at 386 with an average score of 77.2. Busnawi will continue his playing career at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine.
Matt Monheim, West Ranch, sophomore
The third Wildcats golfer to rank in the top three of the Foothill League individual standings, Monheim finished just behind teammate Favian Busnawi with a total score of 388 and an average of 77.6. He’s part of a core group of underclassmen that will make West Ranch a force once again next season.
Cameron Gadd, Hart, senior
As the Indians’ only returner this season, Gadd took on a leadership role for the team. He lived up to it as the highest-ranking Hart golfer in the individual standings, finishing in fourth place at the conclusion of the season. Gadd was very close to making it to the CIF-SS Individual Finals, shooting 2-over in the Individual Regionals, but was beat in a tie-breaking procedure.
Ashton Lee, West Ranch, junior
Although he won no Foothill League matches and barely made the cut to go to the individual playoffs, Lee had the deepest playoff run of all league golfers. He made it to the CIF-SS Individual Finals but faced difficult playing conditions at Goose Creek Golf Course in Jurupa Valley and didn’t shoot low enough to advance. Lee finished seventh in league individually.
Chad Waitkus, Saugus, senior
Waitkus was named the Centurions’ team MVP after finishing the season fifth in the overall individual standings. He tied for runner-up in the second league meet, with teammate Ethan Le Blanc beating him by one. Waitkus will try out for the College of the Canyons team to continue his golf career after concluding his prep career with a 79.0 average.
Canyon — Sean Miller, freshman
Golden Valley — Tyler Richardson, junior
Hart — Joe Lotta, senior
Saugus — Jacob Valente, senior
Valencia — Cole Scully, senior
West Ranch — Brandon Park, sophomore