Encinitas Ranch’s John Mason has taught golf for a long time. But he’s short and to the point when requesting his players to produce two things.
“Have fun,” Mason said, “and get birdies.”
Mason’s bunch from Encinitas Ranch followed his orders and the result was winning the PGA Jr. League Championship in Scottsdale, Arizona, on Sunday. The area players brought back their second national title in four years in the 13-and-younger division by defeating Minnesota.
Mason’s charges made no mistakes near the lakes and seldom anywhere else on the Grayhawk Golf Club course. Encinitas Ranch’s 10-member squad blitzed the competition from around the U.S., winning the crown 6-0 to put Mason in seventh heaven.
“We just kept doing what we have done all year,” Mason said. “It was a nine-month journey.”
Mason never stopped believing and his players were faithful, too.
“They bought in hook, line and sinker,” Mason, 62, said.
Mason’s teaching comes with more than tips about the club striking the ball. He’s in tune with the mental game, too, and that might be the difference. He urges his players to perform with ease, confidence and not to get tangled up in the swing technique and be tormented over a wayward shot.
“And never come up short on your putts,” Mason said. “That is our motto because if it comes up short, it never has a chance to go in.”
Mason got his opportunity to chase his dream which revolved around that ball with dimples after a four-year stint in the Navy. He played at San Diego State and became a regular on the mini-tours that operate a level below the PGA Tour in 1982.
While never earning his PGA card, he earned his keep and traveled the world for 12 years. Then he helped get Encinitas Ranch Golf Course off the ground in 1997, with it opening a year later. He started coaching its Jr. PGA team in 2012, when there were about 9,000 players competing nationwide.
That number has swollen to 52,000. So excuse Mason if he swells with pride when mentioning his title-toting teenagers.
“There are so many good players that when you go to these junior events and you say, ‘Holy Moly, I’m glad I’m not playing against them,”’ Mason said.
Little do the players know golf is playing them.
“Golf teaches you humility,” Mason said. “No one ever masters golf. If you think you’re all that, then you play the game and you say, ‘I guess not.”’
It’s no mystery where the PGA Jr. League Championship trophy is residing and that’s up at Encinitas Ranch, thanks to Mason, but also the youth that is representing so well.
The squad includes long hitters Matthew “Big Country” Broder and Phillip “Boom Boom” Kench, and their teammates: Darren Ho, James Whitworth, Jasmine Kahler, Jay Leng Jr., Karen Tsuru, Nathan Moore, Ryan Abuan and Zander Grant.
“I’m in great spot,” Mason said. “I work at Encinitas Ranch and I live in Del Mar. You can’t beat that, right?”
That sounds familiar. The PGA Jr. League championship field said the same about Encinitas Ranch.
Sportswriter Jay Paris has written his “Sports Talk” column since joining the Coast News in 2013.
Paris, a Cardiff resident, is a longtime Southern California writer, getting his start with the Orange County Register before coming to San Diego in 1992 to cover the Chargers.
He had the Chargers beat for more than two decades with Oceanside Blade-Citizen, the North County Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune, before being named a sports columnist with the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Paris has won numerous awards voted on by his peers in the Pro Football Writers of America. He has also been a staple on countless media platforms, everything from the KPBS to MLB Network and various radio outlets.
Paris is also the author of three books, with his latest one being, “Shohei Ohtani: The Amazing Story Of Baseball’s Two-Way Japanese Superstar.” He has also written “Game Of My Life Chargers” and “Game Of My Life Rams.”
He currently covers the NFL in Los Angeles for Forbes. com and is a contributor to USA Today Sports Weekly. Follow Jay on Twitter @jparis_sports