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Valencia freshman ready to stake claim on league title

Posted: March 23, 2009 11:39 p.m.
Updated: March 24, 2009 4:56 a.m.

Valencia freshman Jonathan Chang brings a well-deserved confidence to the Vikings as they try to knock off defending Foothill League champions and 2009 favorite West Ranch.

There is this consensus going around that West Ranch High will be the Foothill League boys golf champion.

Consider it a tap-in for the Wildcats.

"I would have to disagree," says one Valencia High freshman.

A freshman?

A freshman!

The nerve of him.

Actually, the confidence of him.

Last year, a freshman shook up the Foothill League.

This year, another freshman is trying to do the same.

Confident, not cocky, Jonathan Chang hopes to emulate what J.J. Holen of West Ranch accomplished last year.

Holen, a towering freshman with golf skills beyond his years, helped lead the Wildcats to the top of the standings.

And because of him, and a solid surrounding cast, Foothill League coaches have dubbed West Ranch the team to beat.

But Chang, a towering freshman with golf skills beyond his 15 years, is a major reason the Valencia golf team is saying: "Why not us?"

"With me, (teammate) Alex (Macaluso) and Jonathan playing, I think people are going to be surprised how much better we are," says Foothill League MVP candidate and four-year varsity Viking Max Homa.

Homa points to one area of Chang's game that sets him apart from other freshmen.

While so many young golfers want to knock the dimples out of the ball, Chang prefers the gentle approach on the greens.

"It's more important to me than my swing," Chang says. "It's where you pretty much shoot your score."

It's been said by more than a few people that the freshman is automatic from 10 feet from the cup.

He sank a 50-footer a month ago in competition at TPC Valencia.

"You can see his physical saunter around the (green), then you'll see this smirk on his face - ‘Here we go, watch this,' and he'll just do it," says Valencia head coach Rusty Swisher of Chang's confidence on the greens.

Chang has the numbers already to back up the praise being showered his way by his coach and teammates.

According to Swisher, Chang is shooting lower than anybody on the Vikings this year, and that includes Homa, a Cal-Berkeley bound golfer who is near par every time out on the course.

Homa says Chang may be a little more advanced than he was a freshman.

The reason - Chang's confidence.

He struggles to find the point from where he developed the confidence.

His mother Christine, herself a golfer, says it comes from when he was younger and performed piano recitals in front of a group of people.

As a 10-year-old, though, Chang backed away from golf.

A couple of years later, he got back on the course on a regular basis.

The most pressure-packed situation of his life, Chang says, came around the time of his return.

It was on a golf course when he played for a tournament title in a playoff.

Chang won, he says.

Ever since, he's been succeeding.

And excuse the young man for having confidence, but he has reason to.

His ability allows him to.

Does Valencia have a chance at winning the Foothill League title?

"I think we have a better chance at winning it than last year," he says.

Before that comment though, there was a bluntness in his voice that made it obvious.

He plain thinks his team can win it.


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