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Foothill League boys golf preview: Justin Golden, the restoration

Golden got his athletic career on track through golf — and now he wants to get Canyon back on track

Posted: March 22, 2010 11:00 p.m.
Updated: March 23, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Canyon High golfer Justin Golden only picked up the sport three years ago, but he has already improved by leaps and bounds and hopes to lead Canyon back to the postseason. Cowboys head coach Taggart Lee describes Golden as a coach on the course.

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How people soon forget.

Maybe it hasn’t been soon.

In fact, it’s been a while.

The last time the Canyon boys golf team made a CIF-Southern Section postseason was 1998.

Ask around Canyon High and even there, people don’t remember.

The truth is, Canyon boys golf has had some pretty forgettable seasons since then.

There’s been the notion that boys golf just isn’t strong in Canyon Country, especially in comparison to the west side of the Santa Clarita Valley, where golf has thrived in part due to the abundance of golf courses on that side of town.

Canyon boys golf in 2010 is out to debunk that notion, especially because of one golfer.

Big-hitting raw talent Justin Golden has the opportunity to not only lead his team into the playoffs, but to make the CIF-Southern Section individual postseason.

“I hope for it,” Golden says. “If I don’t (make the postseason), that’s a big disappointment.”

There has been a lot of change with Canyon golf over the course of the last year.

A new coach in Taggart Lee.

A new crop of talented golfers.

And a new commitment.

The new coaching staff has placed an emphasis on making the kids understand that golf is a year-round game.

Thus, the boys and girls teams have been practicing together.

Lee also has help from two other coaches.

He calls Golden his third.

“It’s sort of cool. They challenge each other,” he says of the team. “When you’re able to tap somebody like Justin, they all look up to Justin ... it’s almost (like having) another assistant coach.”

Yet the senior still needs his own coaching.

He picked up the game about three years ago.

His first forays into athletics at Canyon High were with the football and basketball teams.

Golden shed basketball first, then football.

“I didn’t want to play football in college,” Golden says. “With golf, I feel with the way I’m progressing I want to play golf in college. I want to pursue my career in golf.”

He’s come a long way in a short period of time.

The 6-foot-2-inch 17-year-old had little intention, upon first playing, of doing anything but hitting the ball as hard as he could.

While there were some pretty majestic shots, there were still a lot of holes in his game.

“When he started, he was a very aggressive player,” says his swing coach Mark Kagaoan. “He swung under his shoes. He was too quick with his tempo but hit it a long way. I slowed down his tempo a little bit.”

Kagaoan, the assistant golf professional at Robinson Ranch, says in his four-plus years at the course, he has not seen someone progress as quickly as Golden.

Golden still hits it long.

The left-hander recently won the long-drive contest at Spring Valley Lake Country Club at the Serrano Tournament with a drive of 345 yards, according to Lee.

But his ball striking, short game and mental approach have improved so much that he is now poised to stand in the company of the best young golfers in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Golden finished 10th overall in Foothill League competition last season, and shot a season-best 76 at Robinson Ranch on March 31.
He says his best round ever, though, is a 66 on the same course.

If he plays well and the others surrounding him continue to improve, the 2010 Canyon boys golf team has the opportunity to be one of the more memorable bunches in program history.

On top of that, with the way Golden has mentored his team, often times tutoring them on the golf course, he has his own chance to be memorable.

“He’s graduating this year, but he has the opportunity to leave a legacy,” Lee says. “Other kids will remember him. We might not necessarily have a long-ball hitter like that for a while or someone who loves the game as much as he does, but for the kids to have someone to model, I think it’s very important.”

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