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HOLLEN ONE

• It's taken J.J. Holen one season to break through on the local golf scene.

Posted: April 22, 2008 2:13 a.m.
Updated: June 23, 2008 5:01 a.m.

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It's kind of difficult for West Ranch golf coach Jeff Holen to gush about one of his freshman golfers.

He doesn't want to sound like a dad who brags about one of his children.

But Holen's honest.

He sees the numbers being put up on a weekly basis by this 15-year-old.

He has to admit that this kid - actually his kid - is a phenom.

It's not just Holen saying great things about his son/West Ranch golfer J.J. Holen.

Rival coach Tony Moskal of Golden Valley asked for the kid's autograph, jokingly, March 25 after the kid shot an even-par 72 to lead the field that day.

Holen has shot 78, 72, 77 and 76 respectively in Foothill League matches this season. Two of the scores led the first-place Wildcats team.

His strong focus and athleticism has combined with the consistency of fellow freshman force Jay Lim to make West Ranch a contender this year and years after.

Again, Jeff Holen is not braggadocios. He's sincere and tells it like it is.

So when he says the following, he prefaces it well.

"From a coach's perspective, there's been two players I've seen or been associated with that I said, 'They'd be in the bigs,' - (pro golfer) Jason Gore and (former Major League Baseball player) John Olerud. If he wasn't my son and he was on my golf team I would (still) say he has the potential to make it someday if that's his desire," Jeff says.

Jeff played baseball with Olerud at Washington State and watched Gore, a Hart High graduate, practice at Vista Valencia Golf Course while working there.

He understands that his son has a talent for the game.

In fact, J.J. has a talent for many sports.

That's where it gets interesting.

J.J. played forward for the Wildcats JV basketball team.

During the fall and winter when he was concentrating on the sport, he rarely picked up a golf club.

He was able to pick up the clubs in the spring and shoot a 65 at Robinson Ranch without much practice.

In fact, while many youth golfers are playing in junior circuits throughout the year, J.J. has never played in one.

"Probably determination," he says to how he's able to play well. "I just want to go out there and shoot the best I can every time."

It's a little more than that though.

J.J. has been blessed with a large frame - 6-feet-tall and 180 pounds. His father was a college baseball player and his mother was a college softball player.

J.J. was asked if he wanted to play baseball, but scheduling conflicts prevent him from playing the two sports as they are both played in the spring.

He's definitely strong for a freshman, but Jeff says it's his intelligence on the golf course that is a bigger part of his game.

Recently, J.J. played in his first tournament outside of high school.

Jeff watched from the side as his son finished off the day on the par-4 18th hole at Soule Park.

He silently hoped that J.J. would pull out one of his irons and play the hole smartly, instead of going for it with his driver.

J.J. reached into his bag, pulled out an iron and drove it down the fairway. He then wedged onto the green then two-putted for par.

J.J. shot a 72-73 to place eighth in the open tournament.

Now the freshman goes into the final week of league play as a contender for the Newhall Land Cup - the two-day individual tournament/league finale.

He golfs in the No. 1 spot for the Wildcats - which usually is the position for the low shooter on the team.

As Jeff says: "It is nice golf-wise because the numbers don't lie. He has lived up to his side and made it easier for me to be a dad slash coach."

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