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Brandon Dooley, Joey Downey and Isaac Kim: Stars in the making

Trio of West Ranch golfers is embracing its increased importance on the team

Posted: April 16, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: April 16, 2012 1:55 a.m.

From left, West Ranch golfers Brandon Dooley, Joey Downey and Isaac Kim have moved into the top three scoring spots for the team this season. The three of them are being counted on in the team’s quest for a fifth consecutive Foothill League title for the school.

West Ranch High junior golfer Joey Downey was on the par-4 No. 11 hole on Robinson Ranch’s Mountain Course during the Foothill League’s second match of the season on March 28.

If this were a year ago, he could almost hear his head coach Jeff Holen telling him to approach the hole with caution.
This year, he could almost hear his head coach say, “Go for it.”

So instead of pulling out one of his irons, he pulled his out driver and let it rip.

Two shots later, he putts the golf ball into the cup for a birdie.

On the risk/reward hole, he earns a reward.

Downey and teammates Isaac Kim and Brandon Dooley have this sort of “shoot for the pins” green light that they didn’t have last season.

They went from the three-four-five golfers on last year’s Foothill League championship team — the guys whose job it was not to screw things up — to the one-two-three guys expected to lead the Wildcats to a fifth straight Foothill title.

Quite a reversal.

“Last year they were the supporting cast. This year they’re the stars,” Holen says.

For four seasons, West Ranch had one of the strongest No. 1 golfers in this valley’s history in J.J. Holen.

Holen was the All-Santa Clarita Valley Boys Golfer of the Year three years in a row.

West Ranch was built around him, relying on a strong No. 2 golfer who could go near-par — Collin Wheeler in 2008 and 2009 and C.J. Espino in 2010 and 2011. The three-four-five guys just had to stay consistent.

Espino, now a senior, has struggled early in 2012, opening the door for the trio of Downey, Dooley and Kim.

The three have taken the opportunity and run with it.

Yet, not right away.

Saugus came into the Foothill League season as a trendy pick to unseat the Wildcats in league play. That’s because of what it had coming back and its surprise CIF-Southern Section Northern Team Regional championship last May.

The Centurions won the first league match of the year at Valencia Country Club on March 27 — its first-ever Foothill League match win.

The next day, West Ranch won the second league match by 17 strokes.

Kim, a senior, shot a 3-under 68, becoming a surprise entrant into a race for Most Valuable Player, which goes to the player who has the lowest total number of strokes in league play. Prior to the season beginning, he wasn’t in the conversation.

“It’s a new experience for me,” Kim says of being at the top in league play. “I wasn’t expecting it, but right now (MVP) is a possibility. ... I was struggling at the beginning of the season. I was kind of getting it back these past weeks. It’s a real confidence booster. It showed me I’m doing something right.”

It’s that confidence that has allowed these three players to step into roles that are a big jump from last year.

All have developed the confidence based off early season success.

“I’ve definitely become more confident in my ability,” Dooley says. “Coach would say shoot for mid-70s or high-70s in the past. Now we need to make that low 70 round. We need to make birdies. To do that, we need to go for the pins.”

So they’ve developed an aggressive nature, yet there is also an air of calm about the three.

They don’t feel the pressure.

Dooley best shows that.

The 2012 All-Santa Clarita Valley Boys Soccer Player of the Year is going to Fort Lewis College in Colorado this fall to play soccer.

So his competitive golfing days are winding down.

Knowing where his future lies leaves him with a relaxed feeling on the golf course.

“For me, I just want to help the team,” Dooley says. “I know I won’t be a pro golfer. This golf program means a lot to me. I don’t even feel like we’re teammates. I feel like we’re a family. Knowing soccer is my future, I put less stress on golf.”

And with those three giving West Ranch strength at the top, it’s now other guys’ turns to hold down the bottom for the Wildcats.

The Wildcats have strength at the bottom with a freshman in Steven Moentmann and either Espino or Casey May, who actually outshot Dooley in the second league match.

Giving the Wildcats one more piece of confidence in their search for a fifth straight league title is Jeff Holen’s math.
He threw out J.J. Holen’s scores from last year and compared West Ranch’s new team score to the rest of the Foothill League.

Even without J.J., they still would have won the Foothill League last season.



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