COC men’s golf wins 11th state title 

COC men's golf celebrates after winning the CCCAA championship. Photo courtesy of COC men's golf.

To College of the Canyons mens’ golf coach Gary Peterson, winning the program’s 11th state championship this season was expected. 

COC dominated opponents this season, overcoming pressure time and time again before capping off the year with another state title. Canyons won the California Community College Athletics Association crown with a seven-stroke lead at the Sandpiper Golf Course in Goleta, despite a lackluster performance on the course back in March. 

“This was expected,” Peterson said. “For every men’s team, I start out by saying, ‘Look, if we don’t win the state championship, we failed.’ That’s our expectation and there’s no reason that anybody should ever try anything and not expect to be the best. If you don’t, why are you doing it?” 

Peterson had his top four golfers mapped out from the beginning but looked to the Western State Conferences matches to fill his fifth and sixth spots. 

“From the beginning I knew that we had a talented team,” Peterson said. “When we got to our first tournament, we actually took the two teams to an invitational at Purisma, which is as good a test of golf as anywhere in Southern California. We came in first and third.” 

Peterson’s team was led by Hugo Boyer and Ethan Posthumus, the co-WSC Players of the Year. The star pair were the steadiest golfers in the conference, but oddly enough never co-medaled.  

“Hugo and Ethan tied for Player of the Year and I don’t know another time two players tied for Player of the Year,” Peterson said. “I bought this really nice big tall Player of the Year trophy and then I go, ‘Crap, there’s a tie and I already bought this trophy.’ So if anybody wants a big tall golf trophy, I’ve got one. I had to go back and buy two smaller ones. They were solid one-two all season long.” 

Boyer racked up four medals on the season, three of which came in league play, including his individual championship even-par day at the WSC championships. 

Posthumus racked up three medals, including shooting 3-under in Canyons’ head-turning 353-stroke (-7) day at Rancho Vista Golf Course. 

COC men’s golf celebrates after winning the CCCAA championship. Photo courtesy of COC men’s golf.

Filling out the starting lineup were typically Hannes Yngve, Paul Grimonpon and Owen Crockett. Yngve earned two medals this season, Grimonpon was awarded one and while Crockett’s shoulders never were awarded the medal, the Canadian golfer came up clutch when it mattered most. 

Crockett was Canyons’ top golfer at the state championships, where he shot 2-over (146-75/71). The Canadian freshman finished third overall at the championships just ahead of Grimonpon (+2), Boyer (+3) and Posthumus (+9).  

“Owen Crockett was 3-over on the 12th hole and I told him, ‘You really need to try to bring it down a little bit,’” Peterson said. “He said, ‘Don’t worry, coach, I got three birdies coming up,’ and the dude shot 1-under.” 

COC led Reedley College by just one stroke after day one at Sandpiper but locked back in to take the state title. Canyons has now won the state championship every other year of competition since 2013. 

COC men’s golf celebrates after winning the CCCAA championship. Photo courtesy of COC men’s golf.

The Cougars won seven-straight conference matches before falling by a single stroke in their regular-season finale. COC remained hot and blazed through the WSC championship, clinching the title with a 19-stroke lead. The win was Canyons’ sixth double-digit stroke lead in a conference win this season. 

Peterson believes Crockett and Grimonpon both peaked at the perfect time, but he was worried his team may have peaked too early during their conference tear.  

“There was a stretch in early April where we had three rounds of even par and one round of 7-under par,” Peterson said. “I was a little worried that they were peaking too soon, but they were not the most difficult golf courses. We just built on it and I kept saying, ‘You guys might be the best, all you gotta do is win the state championship. If you don’t win it, you’re not even close to being the best.” 

COC’s one hiccup came at the CCCAA State Preview match, where the team got its first crack at Sandpiper but stumbled. Afterward, Peterson got fired up and reminded his players of everything they had left to gain. 

“I kind of got in their faces, which I don’t do very often, and I said, ‘If you guys don’t get it together, we’re not going anywhere, and you’re going to waste all this potential,’” Peterson said. “The worst thing in the world is to have unlimited potential and waste it. So I challenged them and Ben Stewart from Toronto said, ‘If this team doesn’t win the state championship, it’d be unbelievable. This is definitely a state championship team.’” 

The team had a tough time picking out a sixth golfer to round out the starters. Peterson left a lot of the decision-making in the players’ hands, to give his team more control of their own destiny. 

“It was hard to pick the sixth guy and I let the team have a lot of input because it’s their team and I want them to go as far as they can,” Peterson said. “I want their input on who they think should be the sixth guy. We had a lot of conversations so, at regionals and at state, we took a six and a seven.” 

Peterson has led all 11 state championship teams as well as plenty of other talented squads over the years. He regards this team as one of the best he’s ever coached.  

“They’ve got to be one of the best if not tied for the best because of their stroke average during the season and winning conference, regionals and state,” Peterson said. “There was the COVID team that we had in 2020. That team was unbelievable and then we had to quit in March.” 

Making the team is tough at COC, as the program draws competitive golfers from all over the world. The Cougars usually roster a few local golfers but, as of now, none are slated to join next season, something Peterson hopes to change. 

“No local golfers for next year,” Peterson said. “Hello West Ranch, hello Hart, hello Saugus. Santa Clarita is a pretty good academic environment. So these guys probably want to take a break from Awesome Town and explore other places and I don’t blame them. But I would like to get some more local golfers … I think local kids see all the international golfers at Vista and they think they can’t make this team. I would invite them to please consider it and plus, with the first-year promise, community college is free now. Most of these kids know that and they should be taking advantage of it.” 

As for the players, Boyer will continue his playing career at South Carolina, Grimonpon will head to an elite business school in France while the bulk of the starters, including Posthumus, are set to return to COC. The players know a spot on the team isn’t guaranteed and it’s back to square one come summer. 

“I once had a kid tell me after he had left the program, ‘Qualifying for this team made me the best possible golfer because it was harder to make the team than it was to win the tournament,’” Peterson said. “That’s my goal every year is to get a group of guys together and have them literally fight it out amongst each other. I don’t think you’d get better unless you play with better golfers. If you’re the best guy on a team, who’s gonna push you?” 

Peterson has been head of both the men’s and women’s Canyons golf programs since their inaugural seasons. The coach still has no end day in sight and still enjoys helping his players with an array of charity from work on the course to helping them move back home. With the championships still coming in over 30 years after his first, Peterson will return in 2025 in hopes to lead his program to No. 12.  

“The older I get and the closer I get to retirement, (the championships) become a little bit more emotional for me and that’s a good thing,” Peterson said. “It still really means a lot to me. If it didn’t mean a lot to me I probably wouldn’t get as emotional. I was a little choked up. To win 11 on the men’s side and five on the women’s, it’s been a good career. I’m happy and I’ve been happy that I can share it with these kids.” 

COC men’s golf celebrates after winning the CCCAA Southern California Championship. Photo courtesy of COC men’s golf.

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