Johnson veering off the course

Glendale News Press

Having restored the Crescenta Valley High girls' golf program during an era which included a pair of Pacific League championships, Coach Ken Johnson had to follow through with a difficult choice.

Johnson faced the decision of whether to continue as coach or hit the road to New Mexico to watch his daughter, Amanda Rose Johnson, launch her collegiate soccer career. Johnson chose family first and recently resigned his post.

This fall, instead of instructing players with their long and short games, Johnson will reside in a motel in Las Vegas, N.M., so he can observe his daughter's matches. Living out of a suitcase for two months isn't a concern for Johnson.

"The golf season is at the same time as the soccer season," said Johnson, who will watch Amanda play for NCAA Division II program New Mexico Highlands University that competes in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. "I'm sad and glad at the same time because I wanted to continue coaching, but Amanda will be playing soccer.

"I had told our team after the season ended that I might not be back. The players were telling me to come back, but my wife will be retiring and we can see Amanda play two-to-three matches per week."

Johnson took over the program in 2002 from John Pehar, who currently serves as Crescenta Valley's boys' golf coach.

When Johnson inherited the team, the Falcons were a freelance squad. They then joined the Pacific League in 2005 before becoming one of the elite teams in the league.

After the Falcons went 3-8 and 2-6 in the Pacific League their first season, things changed for Crescenta Valley. Crescenta Valley featured standouts Christine Cho and Katie Park and quickly held firm atop the league standings. The Falcons won back-to-back league titles in 2006 and 2007.

"I think the first three years for me coaching the program were a great reward," said Johnson, who was selected the 2007 All-Area Girls' Coach of the Year after the Falcons went 26-4 and 20-4 in league before placing a respectable seventh at the CIF Southern Section Central Team Divisional. "I took over a team that was young and inexperienced and we knew it would take some time before we'd get a winning record.

"Then we started to begin doing pretty well. We had people like Christine who came in, did well and inspired a lot of the girls. She was a big boost to the team and engaged enthusiasm."

Cho would go on to capture the individual league championship in 2006 and be named the All-Area Girls' Golfer of the Year in 2007 after finishing runner-up and moving on to the CIF-Women's Southern California Golf Assn. Championship.

Johnson, whose team went 12-14-2 and 12-13 in league for fourth place this season, helped Cho, who will be a junior on the Harvard University women's golf team in the fall, flourish in all aspects of the sport.

"He was definitely a great coach and he helped me feel relaxed and comfortable out there," said Cho, who is the reigning Ivy League Player of the Year. "I was really lucky to have him as a coach."

Current Falcon Jenny Lee, a junior, said she wanted Johnson to remain Crescenta Valley's coach.

"I didn't want him to leave because he's like a second dad to me," said Lee, a two-year varsity athlete. "It's kind of shocking to know and it's going to be hard to replace him.

"He helped me in a lot of different ways to hit the ball. He made us believe we could always do even better."

Crescenta Valley girls' Athletic Director Peter Kim said Johnson forged sturdy working relationships among the field of players.

"Regardless of the players' ability, he saw them as equals," said Kim, who added that it wasn't clear when the Falcons would find a successor. "He made them feel important to be a part of the team and they were a piece of the puzzle.

"They bought into his [coaching] system and success came with it."

The elder Johnson will pay close attention to his daughter, who excelled as goalkeeper and forward for the past several seasons at Crescenta Valley, on the field.

The younger Johnson received plenty of accolades last season, as she earned all-league and All-Area first-team honors after helping the Falcons win a league championship for the second season in a row.

She registered 11 shutouts and scored seven goals en route to earning All-CIF Division II third-team recognition.

"We are looking forward to moving on and being able to watch her play," Johnson said.

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