Virgen's View: Wheatley looks to extend season

Two straight bogeys was a less-than-an-ideal start for Chase Wheatley on a hot Monday in Long Beach.

The Corona del Mar High senior was trying to extend his final season with the Sea Kings, playing in the CIF Southern Section Individual Regional.

After the consecutive bogeys it could have been expected that Wheatley's season was about to end. But Wheatley wasn't about to go out like that. The heat pounded at him, but he continued to be a grinder and battled.

Later in the round, he endured three straight bogeys. Along the way, he thought about wanting to finish at 74, and that should be enough to get him in the top 30 to advance.

Birdies on hole Nos. 10, 12 and 2 certainly helped, and he did finish at two-over 74. And he did qualify to play in Monday's CIF Southern Section Individual Final Championship at La Purisima Golf Course.

"My play was not my best," Wheatley said. "But I was happy to know that even though I was struggling, I was still able to post a good number."

Wheatley said it helped to have CdM Coach Mike Starkweather there at Skylinks Golf Course. The coach provided motivation to keep on battling, Wheatley said.

Now Wheatley moves on to play at La Purisima. Of course the goal is to qualify, to finish among the top 28 and move on to the CIF/SCGA Regional Qualifier at Brookside Golf Club, continue to extend that senior season. There is a sense of pride for getting this far, but that doesn't mean Wheatley is content.

"I'm looking to make the top 28 and advance," he said. "I know I have the potential to do it. It's just a matter of putting it together when I need to do it."

The confidence is there since he saw it come together amid the heat while struggling at Skylinks on Monday. The finish was a part of an exciting couple weeks for Wheatley.

Last week, Wheatley was a part of CdM's improbable CIF South Coast Divisional championship victory. Even the players were stunned to bring home the championship hardware. The Sea Kings showed the plaque to principal Tim Bryan, an avid golfer who was proud of CdM's stunning win.

The Sea Kings edged St. Margaret's, 380-381, to capture the title for the second straight year. It wasn't like last season when most expected CdM to win it.

"It was shocking to me that we won CIF," said Wheatley, who shot 78 and was one of five who finished in the 70s. "I felt like there were a lot of good teams that could win. I felt that our team didn't really have the most experience, except for myself and Karick Brown. But we had a sophomore [John Hong, 73] play really well and a senior [Walter Frome, 75] who also played great."

CdM's CIF win last week proved to be special. The underdog Sea Kings came out on top amid wind and rain.

"Last year, we knew we could win we just had to play like we played all year," Wheatley said. "We had three seniors and myself a junior and a sophomore. We had been playing together a lot. We just took care of business. We knew we had been waiting for a CIF win for a long time.

"Then this year it was just get to Talega and do our best. We weren't expecting anything. I was glad to see, even though we were in the rain, our guys just kept playing. I'm glad we were all in the 70s because that really helped our team."

Wheatley, a member at Newport Beach Country Club, has learned some valuable lessons as a junior golfer and while at CdM.

It will only help him when he takes on more challenges in college. Wheatley will continue to play at Rutgers. He said he never thought he could have the opportunity to become a NCAA Division I golfer when he first came to CdM as a freshman.

But teachers like Paul Hahn, while at NBCC, and more recently Bobby Lasken from Arroyo Trabuco have helped him improve. Playing tournaments have also aided Wheatley.

The success, and even the adversity, from each hole, each round, have provided Wheatley with more strength and knowledge.

He missed the cut by two strokes on Tuesday at the U.S. Open qualifier (first stage) at Ironwood Country Club. Hahn, the former NBCC head pro, was there to caddy, just as he did last year.

Wheatley is happy to know that he'll play at Rutgers but he is well aware there will be more challenges ahead. He has goals that he wants to accomplish, but he doesn't think too far ahead. He sets goals for each hole he approaches, where he wants to land, how far he wants to hit.

"Small things like that help me post good numbers," said Wheatley, who remains excited about Monday. "I do set my expectations high but there are a lot of things I want to accomplish. It's going to be a tough field. I'll have to play well. I'm not expecting anyone to hand me a spot to go to Brookside."

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