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There's a race after all

Posted: March 26, 2008 1:26 a.m.
Updated: May 27, 2008 5:02 a.m.

West Ranch freshman golfer J.J. Holen chips out of a sandtrap Tuesday at Valencia Country Club in the second Foothill League match. Holen shot even-par 72 to earn medalist.

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There was supposed to be no suspense as to who would come out victorious Tuesday at Valencia Country Club in the second Foothill League boys golf match.

Not when opponents were talking about the West Ranch boys golf team and when an opposing coach sarcastically asked one of its players for his autograph.

But Valencia's last two golfers ended up making the final result suspenseful.

West Ranch's huge lead early, though, allowed the Wildcats to win its second straight league match.

The Wildcats edged Valencia 387-392 with Hart taking third place at 412.

Valencia's Brad Hunter (78) and Kevin Fitzgerald (74) were the last Vikings to come off the course, edging the final two West Ranch golfers' scores by 16 strokes.

Minutes earlier, Saugus golfer Daniel Stradling said: "West Ranch, no one's going to be able to catch them."

He meant in league play, but Valencia made sure that it will be a race.

Both the league crown and Most Valuable Player will be awarded based on total strokes.

Though West Ranch gained a little more distance, West Ranch now leads by 23 strokes, Valencia managed to shave eight strokes from Thursday's league opener at Robinson Ranch.

The Wildcats, meanwhile, were five strokes off.

Nonetheless, West Ranch was again led by its freshman tandem of J.J. Holen and Jay Lim.

Holen, who shot a 78 Thursday at Robinson Ranch, carded an even-par 72 at the VCC course Tuesday to earn medalist.

The 5-foot-11, 180-pound 15-year-old was able to navigate through some difficult rough.

He birdied five holes, bogeying three, shooting a double-bogey on 12.

Holen said it was his ability to keep his ball on the fairway that translated into a solid outing for him.

Also beneficial was his play on the par-5s.

He was 3-under on those holes.

It was also his concentration.

"The mental game. I'd hit a bad shot and wouldn't get upset," Holen said. "I was really pleased, being this is the second time playing here."

Holen, in fact, said he rarely picked up a golf club in the fall and early winter as he was concentrating on basketball being on the West Ranch JV team.

His natural ability carried him, said his father and West Ranch head coach Jeff Holen.

As for Lim, it's been consistency.

He shot 73 Tuesday to Thursday's co-medalist 74.

Ryan Weltig also helped the Wildcats get the early jump with a 74.

J.J. Holen was eight strokes better than the next competitor in his foursome.

Normally steady Hart golfer Johnny MacArthur shot an 80 and Valencia's Max Homa shot an 81.

MacArthur was picked up by the play of teammate Tanner Diaz, who contributed a 74.

"He's a very consistent ball striker," said Hart head coach Pete Calzia. "He's got a perfect temperament for golf - confident competitor."

Saugus finished fourth with a 437, led by Justin Hancock's 83.

Canyon and Golden Valley flip-flopped from Thursday with Canyon finishing in fifth with a 471 and Golden Valley finishing with a 485.

Canyon was led by Paco Franco's 81 and Golden Valley was paced by Robert Pile's 85.

Golden Valley head coach Tony Moskal said his team was at a disadvantage because his players had not practiced the VCC course before.

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