Chia grows into a contender

Long before Jocelyn Chia became a member of the Crescenta Valley High girls' golf team, she participated in numerous American Junior Golf Assn. tournaments across California.

Traveling to different venues from Los Angeles to the Bay Area, Chia worked hard at placing quality shots on fairways, developing a consistent long game and making clutch putts on unpredictable greens. No matter the outcome, Chia used the tournaments to better her game so she could become a top golfer at the high school level.

"I knew that I would have to make adjustments once I got to high school," said Chia, who just completed a stellar freshman campaign that entailed a lengthy postseason run. "I competed in all of those tournaments around the state and I was able to gain a lot of experience by going up against a lot of good players.

"That definitely helped me a lot."

Chia's ability to prepare for the next level went a long way. That proved to be evident during her splendid first season with the Falcons.

In a program that once featured standout Christine Cho, the Falcons have likely found somebody in Chia who might be in line to emulate or surpass Cho's magnitude. Chia became the Falcons' top player and provided a glimpse of what might be a superb career at Crescenta Valley.

Chia wasted no time proving herself in high school competition. She won or shared medalist honors in seven matches. It didn't stop there, as Chia placed third in the league individual final before marching all the way to the CIF Southern Section Northern Individual Regional, the CIF Individual Final and Women's Southern California Golf Assn. Qualifying Tournament and finally the WSCGA Foundation Tournament.

It is because of those accomplishments that Chia has been unanimously chosen the 2010 All-Area Girls' Golfer of the Year by the sports writers and editors of the Glendale News-Press, Burbank Leader and La Cañada Valley Sun.

When Crescenta Valley Coach Lee Pope inherited the program from Ken Johnson last spring, Pope had no background information on Chia. Chia showed up for a team introduction meeting and Pope then watched her practice at a nearby course. Almost immediately, Pope had an inkling that Chia might be the Falcons' drawing card.

"Overall, she's laid down the foundation for the program that they need to get better to continue to succeed," said Pope, whose team finished fourth in league. "She's telling others that she needs to get better, but so do they.

"She went out there this season and let her play do the talking. I had no problem slipping her into the No. 1 spot and I'm just grateful that I'll have her for the next three years."

In a league that features top athletes like Ravipa Losakul of Burroughs and Arcadia's Katherine Guo, Chia proved she belonged in their company during most league matches from Burbank to the San Gabriel Valley. It would have been natural for Chia to be intimidated while competing against players with more high school experience, but that wasn't the case.

"I just wanted to go out there and have fun and that's the way I've always treated the sport," Chia said. "When you take the game too serious, it's not as fun.

"I didn't even know what medalist meant before I got the first one [in Pacific League]. When I got my first medal, I asked my teammates if it was good and they said yes. That told me that I could do well."

Those outside of the Crescenta Valley circle could see Chia's career burgeoning.

Veteran Arcadia Coach Robbie Greep, who guided the Apaches to the league championship this season, said Chia's consistency paved the way for a successful season.

"She had some previous experience coming into high school and that helped her out," Greep said. "She showed that she could be one of the most consistent golfers in our league.

"Her confidence level and sportsmanship are awesome. She shot well from week to week and she's a huge asset for our league. She has lots of room to grow and improve."

At the league's individual final, Chia finished third after she shot an 11-over-par 81 for a two-round score of 158 at Jurupa Hills Country Club in Riverside County.

That resulted in Chia earning a trip to the CIF Southern Section Northern Individual Regional, where she finished with a 10-over-par 81 to tie for 23rd on Nov. 1 at Las Posas Country Club in Camarillo.

Chia was one of 45 athletes who advanced to the CIF Individual Final and Women's Southern California Golf Assn. Qualifying Tournament on Nov. 8 at La Purisima Golf Course in Lompoc. That event proved to be a tense outing for Chia.

She managed to keep her sensational season alive by shooting a 15-over-par 87. Braving windy conditions and a soggy course from a downpour that had fallen throughout part of the match, Chia found herself in a three-player playoff for the last two qualifying spots with Michelle Folan of Marymount and Renae McAvoy of El Toro. Chia and Folan each three-putted for bogey on the 18th hole to move on to the WSCGA Foundation Tournament.

"That was crazy because of everything that happened from the weather to the playoff," Chia said. "I was good enough to make it and I knew that put me one step away from going to state."

Chia's bid to reach the state tournament fell short when her season concluded at The Golf Club at Rancho California in Murrieta on Nov. 10. She carded a seven-over-par 79 to finish in an eight-way tie for 49th place.

Chia said the season will give her hope in her quest to win a league championship and perhaps make an appearance at a state tournament.

"My expectations are always going to be high," Chia said. "I just want to go out there and strive to meet my goals and I'll look back on this season as one that helped me get better."

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