Pulling off an impressive feat for the second time in 30 years, College of the Canyons men’s golf team recently captured its 10th straight Western State Conference Championship — for the second such decade-long run in the program’s history.
The team has been dominant over the WSC during COC head coach Gary Peterson’s tenure at the college, who’s led the team to all 25 of the program’s men’s golf titles. Peterson not only built a powerhouse program, but he’s established a long-lasting and widely recognizable brand for the Cougars.
“One of my golfers, from England, worked at a Pro Shop and we were Skype-ing one day and he said, ‘I have to show you something,’” Peterson recalled. “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.”
Capturing the conference title with a roster primarily made up of freshmen plus two sophomores, this year, Peterson has built a skilled team filled with a variety of international golfers: From France, there’s Jules Lavigne and Anguerrand Voisin; from Japan, there’s Nobuhiko Wakaari; and Australian Tom Sims, joins Jack Greene of Simi Valley and Matthew Mansholt of Lancaster. Sims is the lone sophomore in the group.
“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.”
For the most recent championship, the squad finished the 36-hole event 6-under, with a total score of 714. Canyons topped runner-up Santa Barbara City College by 14 strokes (730), in addition to besting Bakersfield College (771), Glendale (776) and Ventura (783).
“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.”
Creating a bond and brotherhood throughout the season, the team understood that they had something special a couple of weeks into the season.
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.”