Pulling off an impressive feat for the second time in less than three decades, College of the Canyons men’s golf team captured their 10th straight Western State Conference Championship for the second time and 25th overall for the program at Soule Park Golf Course on Monday.
Finishing the 36-hole event 6-under with a total score of 714, Canyons topped runner-up Santa Barbara City College (730), Bakersfield College (771), Glendale (776) and Ventura (783).
Capturing the conference title with a roster primarily made up of freshmen plus two sophomores, Canyons head coach Gary Peterson has built a roster filled with a variety of international golfers like: French Jules Lavigne and Anguerrand Voisin, Japanese international Nobuhiko Wakaari and Australian Tom Sims along with local golfers Jack Greene of Simi Valley and Matthew Mansholt of Lancaster. Sims is the lone sophomore out of the group.
“I learned a long time ago that it’s really important to get good golfers,” Peterson said. “That’s what I spend a large percentage of my time on. From February to April I’m doing Skype calls every weekend. I mean, to two or three golfers each weekend.”
With a diverse roster, Peterson said that there were some hurdles to overcome throughout the season because of the language and cultural differences. But the differences also came with some advantages.
“There were two times that we had four Frenchmen in the van, so I learned a little French,” Peterson said. “A lot of the time with the Europeans and internationals, they are a little bit more mature on the golf course. They have maybe done some more competition because high schools and colleges in Europe don’t have athletics, it’s all community and clubs. A lot of these kids have been playing fairly high-level golf for quite a while so when they come over here and play California Community College golf I think most of them are quite used to the stress and used to the level of competition.”
Freshman Voisin was the event medalist shooting a 4-under par with identical scores of 70 in the two-round event for a total score of 140.
Simi Valley product Greene finished the event shooting a personal best 6-under 66 on the front 18 and a 78 in the back 18 for a fourth-place finish overall in the tourney.
“For me, I shot a personal best, but going into it was weird energy because we all knew what we had to do,” Greene said. “After we got the first win of the first match, we pretty much knew that we were going to get the 10th title. Once we were done it was a good car trip home.”
Japan native Wakaari carded a 1-over 73 in the opening round and a 3-under 69 for medalist honors on the back 18 holes.
Mansholt shot a 2-under 70 in the second round finishing with a total score of 146 and Jules Lavigne with an 149. Sims finished shooting a 151.
Creating a bond and brotherhood throughout the season, the team understood that they had something special a couple of weeks into the season.
“Everyone clicked really well together,” Greene said. “After the first couple tournaments and qualifiers and I played well, they kind of noticed that Jack Greene actually can play golf. We are all good friends and joke around with each other a lot and give each other some grief every now and then, but it’s all in good fun in the end.”
With their play throughout the year, Lavigne, Sims and Voisin all earned All-WSC honors while Wakaari was named the WSC Player of the Year.
“Statistics and tournament play are a big factor when we get to postseason play so when we picked the postseason team for conference finals it wasn’t a dilemma,” Peterson said. “There were a lot of good kids and I went with my gut.”
Dominating the WSC over the time at the school and winning all 25 of the program’s men’s golf titles, Peterson has not only built a powerhouse program, but established a long-lasting and recognizable brand for the Cougars, sharing something that he will never forget.
“One of my golfers, from England, worked at a Pro Shop and we were Skyping one day and he said ‘I have to show you something.’ He took out a golf ball and held it up to his phone and it was the College of the Canyons’ golf logo on this golf ball in England. That’s amazing. No. 1, it’s amazing that the ball made it all the way there and No. 2 it’s amazing that that kid found that ball and he had already committed to coming to College of the Canyons.”
Canyons moves onto play 36 holes in the CCCAA Southern California Regional Championships at Los Serranos Country Club in Chino Hills on Monday. First tee off begins at 7 a.m.
“If I can have a kid come here and move on right away to a new school, great, because that only helps our program,” Peterson said. “At this point in my career I just want to help the young men and young women advance on and have a successful golf career, get a great education and have fond memories of College of the Canyons.”