Chin swings on learning curve

John Chin is having more fun, but the margin for error is as small as a dimple on a golf ball.

He's playing for money on the professional stage, but whether he makes a three-foot par putt could put him, say, 20 spots either way from a competitor.

Chin, a 23-year-old from Temecula, worked his way at or near the top of the competition for much of his UC Irvine career. He won two Big West Conference individual championships, including earlier this year as a senior.

Chin won four times last season and had 11 top-10 finishes. He earned a spot on the United States' Palmer Cup team and signed on with Gaylord Sports Management.

He played his first pro event, the PGA Tour's Reno-Tahoe Open in July, on a sponsor's exemption and missed the cut (75-75 — 150).

"I was really nervous," Chin said. "I didn't play that well, but gained a lot of knowledge like getting up-and-down and course management."

Chin went on to play in three Nationwide Tour events — all on sponsor's exemptions.

His best finish was a tie for 67th at the Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational in Columbus, Ohio. Chin finished eight over par (68-74-77-73 — 292). D.J. Brigman won at 10 under (66-72-72-64 — 274).

Chin said making the cut in Ohio is his top professional moment. He marvels at the quality of players at the pro level.

"You don't realize, these guys are good," Chin said.

Chin shot five under in the first round of the Soboba Golf Classic at the Country Club at Soboba Springs in late September and missed the cut following a three-over 74 the second day.

"The cut [four under] was really low," Chin said.

These pro tournaments offered a continual stream of lessons; including the major role the mind plays in how well or poorly he plays.

"It's how you handle yourself, not getting too high or too low," Chin said. "Confidence is such a huge factor at that level and the belief that you can do it."

This is golf's sleepy time of year and Chin is taking it easy. He's working on his fitness and would like to play in a couple of Nationwide events next season, but first things first.

"I have to play better golf," he said. "If I play golf well, I'm not going to worry about where I'm going to play."

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