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Jonathan Kang understands the legacy of great golfers in the Santa Clarita Valley, including PGA Tour professionals, college All-Americans, CIF/SCGA champions and state medalists.
The Golden Valley senior has produced one of the most decorated resumes of any high school golfer to compete in the Foothill League and is looking to conclude an impressive final chapter by cementing his place in SCV history with an extended postseason run.
After Elisa Pierre made her second appearance at the state tournament representing Golden Valley's girls golf team in November, Kang is looking to cap his career with a third consecutive league MVP and a berth in the state final June 1 at San Gabriel Country Club.
Kang recently competed at the Winn Grips Heather Farr Classic in Mesa, Arizona - his final American Junior Golf Association tour event until the summer - now shifting his focus to the rest of the league schedule, which includes the Newhall Land Cup on April 19 and 20 at TPC Valencia where he is the two-time champion.
"It would be a blessing to win and make a deep playoff run," Kang said. "But this is golf. Anything can happen."
Kang learned early in his high school career how quickly fortunes can change on the course and has used that valuable experience, taking nothing for granted each time he competes against his league peers.
During his freshman season, Kang led the Newhall Cup after one round, but endured the frustration of shooting 93 in the second round as West Ranch senior Joey Downey relied on his experience to capture the title in 2013.
"It was a difficult experience, but he's better today because of it," Golden Valley coach Tony Moskal said. "He's got a great work ethic, but he's also learned how to be mentally strong and how to manage the course."
Kang still managed to place fifth in the league as a freshman, becoming the first Golden Valley male golfer to qualify for the playoffs. He is now motivated to secure a fourth career trip to the postseason.
"For my final high school season, I hope to take every round one by one," Kang said. "Since this is my senior year, it will be easy to get ahead of myself, but my goals are to stay humble and focused."
Kang signed a national letter of intent in September to play at UC Irvine, becoming the third Golden Valley golfer to continue their career in college, along with the University of Indiana-bound Pierre and Amanda Hobbs at Biola University.
"It was a huge relief when I committed. After a stressful summer filled with tournaments every week and traveling to many different parts of the state, as well places outside of California, it felt good to know that it all paid off," Kang said. "The team is very young and talented and it is a blessing to be a part of it. I felt that Irvine was perfect because of its amazing weather, the beach and it is also close to home."
Kang struggled to shoot around par in the first two Foothill League rounds because of strong winds at Robinson Ranch, but still remains in contention for another MVP because of his tireless work ethic and focus on fundamentals.
"I feel that my driving accuracy and short game has been the most consistent," Kang said. "I've been working on keeping my downswing more shallow, but all in all, my swing has not changed much."
Neither has Kang's balanced approach, spending time with friends and watching movies when he's not on the course or getting in extra work at the driving range or putting green.
"I love watching nonfiction movies because it amazes me to see some of the things people had to go through," Kang said. "Hanging out with friends also keeps me relaxed, because there is no stress when you are having fun."
If Kang can enjoy the pleasure of capturing a third MVP, it would give Golden Valley the top male and female golfers in the league for six consecutive seasons, with Pierre becoming the first girl in SCV history to achieve a three-peat in November.
Considering the boys or girls golf teams at Golden Valley had never finished higher than fourth in the league before Kang and Pierre began their careers, their impact on the history of the sport in Santa Clarita speaks volumes, despite both athletes' modest nature.
"Santa Clarita has produced lots of college golf athletes, as well as professional golfers, so this sport should have already gained the respect it deserves," Kang said. "However, it feels good to know that Elisa and I have helped keep the sport alive, not only at Golden Valley, but in the entire city as well."