Chase Wheatley moved from Illinois two years ago and has zoomed toward the top of the Corona del Mar High boys' golf team lineup in a season of winning, a lot of winning. The Sea Kings come off their first undefeated season (22-0), with seniors Mike Moorhead, John Davenport and Brian Mull helping the team go 40-0 in Pacific Coast League matches during their four years.
"Things happen naturally," Wheatley, a junior, said of this season's run. "It's been pretty simple: just go out, play and not think too much. Everyone has had rough rounds here and there, but overall we're starting to get better. I am fortunate enough to be playing well.
"We knew if we played to the best of our ability we would win every match. We have a pretty deep team."
As evidence, six CdM players reached the final day of league finals earlier this week at San Juan Hills Golf Club.
Wheatley has been buoyed by playing alongside Davenport, Mull and Moorhead.
"There is some motivation there, trying to play up to their level," Wheatley said.
For much of the year Wheatley has done just that. At one stage this season he was medalist in 12 of 16 matches.
Sure there will be rounds when things don't go as planned.
"Today wasn't my best effort, but you will have those days."
Wheatley was referring to the first round of the league championships, when he took a nine on the 17th hole and a bogey on the 18th to finish with a 78. He and five teammates (Moorhead, Davenport, Mull, sophomore Hale Furey and Karick Brown) all made the cut to reach the second day of the league finals.
Wheatley rebounded with a one-over-par round the following day. He has the distance.
"He's started hitting the ball farther this year," Furey said of Wheatley. "He can hit it over 300 [yards] when he wants to."
Wheatley started playing golf when he was 12 and living in the Chicago area. He played tennis at the Onwentsia Club in Lake Forest, Ill., and since the club had a golf course, he gravitated toward the game.
He moved to Southern California two years ago and started working on his swing with Paul Hahn, head pro at Newport Beach Country Club.
The two set a goal of a 35-36 scoring average for nine holes this season. Wheatley said the lessons he learns from Hahn can be applied from full swing to chipping and putting.
"Get back to simplicity and eventually get more complex," Wheatley said.
Wheatley was hitting five-irons 230 yards when the two started working together, Hahn said.
"When he first came to me he could hit it a long way, knew his game and could get the ball in the hole," Hahn said. "Unfortunately, when he made a mistake he wasn't able to fix himself."
So, Hahn brought pictures and videos and worked with Wheatley on fundamentals such as changing stance and how far to stand from the ball.
"[Wheatley] had an unorthodox swing to now one of a golfer you'd see on the [PGA] Tour," Hahn said.
Wheatley acknowledges the obstacles golf presents and how to respond.
"The most challenging part is handling the bad days and taking the positives out of it." Wheatley said. "You have to take a deep breath, trust yourself to get back rather than trying to hit a one-in-a-million shot."
Wheatley admitted he likes taking risks on the course, depending on the situation.
"I'd rather commit to a shot and hit O.B., rather than not commit and hit O.B." That mindset, along with steady play, helped Wheatley earn league Most Valuable Player, CdM Coach Mike Starkweather said.
The Sea Kings compete in the CIF South Coast Team Divisional Monday at Talega Golf Club in San Clemente.
Later this month Hahn said he will caddie for Wheatley in the U.S. Open local qualifier May 16 at Newport Beach Country Club.
May is shaping up to be an exciting month for Wheatley, offering plenty of opportunity to continue moving forward.
Born: Oct. 25, 1994
Hometown: Corona del Mar
Height: 5 feet, 11 inches
Weight: 170 pounds
Sport: Boys' golf
Coach: Mike Starkweather
Favorite food: Pasta
Favorite movie: Anchor Man
Favorite athletic moment: Eagled the final hole to earn third place in an Illinois Junior Golf Assn. tournament 2 1/2 years ago.
Week in review: Tied the school record with a three-under-par 32 in a victory against University.