Richard Tetu has learned in his near-decade of coaching high school golf that the best golfers are usually rather self-centered. That was far from the case with his star golfer at La Cañada High this year, Jay Lim.
“Separating [Lim] from other golfers I’ve had in the past is that he’s a team player,” Tetu said. “A lot of good golfers in high school are really into themselves. …It’s unusual to have a high school golfer that’s invested in the team first, and he is. He carried us.”
More than a few times this year, Tetu tried to give Lim, a senior, a day off in matches where the team probably wouldn’t need his scoring. Lim wasn’t interested.
“He wanted to play,” Tetu said. “He played every match, except a few when he was on some college trips.”
That’s not all that makes Lim a unique golfer. The most noticeable thing is his swing.
“Most golfers have an athletic stance and Jay is kind of hunched over like the old-school golfer guys,” said Tetu, adding it’s something he’d never seen from one of his high school golfers before. “He has a short back swing and it’s very different looking. You could compare him to guys in the 50s in the 60s.”
Lim’s odd swing came out of his personal golf lessons years ago. His instructor didn’t look to mold his swing any particular way, just telling him to go with what felt comfortable. The unconventional swing played right into Lim’s conservative style and his success in his senior season this year.
“I usually just aim for the middle of the fairway and play smart, I don’t get too aggressive on the golf course,” said Lim, adding that he isn’t afraid to take risks when he has to. “I know when I need birdies. I know when I need to execute, but hitting fairways is key to my game.”
Lim’s swing and concern for the team didn’t get in the way of him excelling on the links individually, as Lim finished the year with a 70 scoring average, was named the Rio Hondo League Most Valuable Player and advanced all the way to the Southern California Regional Final, missing the cut for CIF State Championship by one stroke.
The performance Lim put together outshined the rest of a talented group of area golfers this year and, in turn, earned him the title of the 2011 All-Area Boys’ Golfer of the Year by the sports editors and writers of the Burbank Leader, Glendale News-Press and La Cañada Valley Sun.
The Spartans finished the season with an undefeated record of 19-0 and 8-0 in the Rio Hondo League to capture their seventh straight league championship, behind solid contributions from Noah Bernstein, Derek Patao, Joshua Suh, Daniel Rhee and Lim, who was a relative newcomer to playing golf on a team. The only other year he played for his high school was as a freshman at West Ranch High in Valencia before eventually moving back to La Cañada earlier this year.
Coming into this season, Tetu didn’t know much about Lim, except that he coached his brother a few years ago before the Lim family moved out to Santa Clarita.
“I knew he could play, but I didn’t know for sure he was going to be playing with us,” said Tetu, who didn’t realize Lim would do so well this year.
Lim didn’t realize the type of success he’d have, either.
“I didn’t really expect much out of my senior season,” Lim said. “I was just playing to have fun and enjoy my senior season with my teammates.”
As a freshman, Lim made it to the first round of the CIF Individual Playoffs, but missed the cut out of the first round. Coming into the postseason this year, he feared he’d suffer the same fate.
“As the season went along, I knew I had pressure to get as far as I can [in the CIF Individual Playoffs],” Lim said.
Lim advanced through the first two rounds with relative ease. He tied for fifth place, with a 72, in the first round and took a share of fourth, shooting a 74, in the next round. He carded a 71 in the Southern California Regional Final at Brookside Golf Course in Pasadena, which tied him for 15th out of 123 golfers.
“I was always thinking about state, but I was focused to get through round by round because my freshman year I choked and got knocked out in first round of CIF,” Lim said.
Tetu thought Lim had stamped his ticket to the CIF State Championship after how well he played in the Southern California Regional, especially toward the end of the day.
“It’s still a tremendous accomplishment getting there [to the Southern California Regional],” Tetu said. “The banquet room [there] was filled with the top 80 or 100 golfers in Southern California. Considering the way [Lim] did and missing the cut by one shot, it wasn’t upsetting, it was just surprising.”
There’s no plan for Lim to put away his clubs anytime soon. Lim is set to play golf for the University of San Diego next year and he hopes to one day take his skills onto the PGA Tour.
Right now, he’s working out, looking to add muscle to hopefully add about 15 yards to his drives, which currently average out at about 275 yards. He hopes to still keep his signature stroke, though.
“I developed the old school thing and it’s worked for me,” Lim said.