Falcon found higher gear

Hampered by a left-wrist injury that affected her long game, Jocelyn Chia spent time trying to perfect her short game to compensate.

Feeling a slight soreness most times she hit off a tee or an approach shot during the first half of the season, the Crescenta Valley High sophomore girls' golfer encountered a more calming presence and a lack of pain when it came to making a putt.

While the injury nagged Chia, it proved to be a boon for her as the season progressed.

"It bothered me a little in the beginning of the season, but it definitely helped my short game," Chia said. "I thought my short game was getting better despite having the pain and my scores just got better."

After the pain subsided in early October, Chia went on to enjoy her second consecutive banner season. She won her first Pacific League individual championship and helped Crescenta Valley finish second in league behind Arcadia. The accomplishments didn't stop there, as she advanced all the way to the CIF Southern Section Individual Final and Women's Southern California Golf Assn. Qualifying Tournament — the third round of individual play — for the second straight season.

It is because of those accomplishments that Chia has been unanimously chosen the 2011 All-Area Girls' Golfer of the Year by the sports writers and editors of the Glendale News-Press, Burbank Leader, La Cañada Valley Sun and Pasadena Sun. It marked the second straight season that Chia has earned the honor.

"I'm really excited and happy with the way my season went, but I'm also exhausted," Chia said. "It's because there's been a lack of sleep since the season started by trying to balance golf with academics."

While Chia might have had her share of sleepless nights and focusing on her schoolwork, it didn't seem to have an effect on the links in local and surrounding communities.

Chia often managed to turn in top-notch results, which seemed to spur the Falcons, who climbed from fourth place early in the season to second in league under the guidance of second-year Coach Lee Pope.

Pope said he noticed Chia's significant improvement from the beginning of last season through this season.

"Last year, she came in with the reputation of being a good player and she easily proved that," Pope said. "This year, you could see right at the start that she improved playing in junior tournaments and she was going to be able to knock off a couple of strokes off her game, which she did.

"Once she came back from the wrist injury, she came on strong. She won league and then made it through three rounds. That's because of her consistency and having that intestinal fortitude."

That proved to be the case during the league individual final Oct. 20 at Jurupa Hills Country Club in Riverside County.

Chia entered the final round of the two-day event two strokes behind Arcadia's Katherine Guo. Chia fired a two-under-par 73 in the second round, putting her near the top of the leader board. However, she wasn't sure if it would be enough to win the championship.

Chia waited patiently for the final scores to be tallied, then learned her fate that she won in a card-off by virtue of posting a lower score on the back nine. Chia and Guo each finished their two-round competition with a 259, but Chia won the card-off by shooting two fewer strokes on the back nine and became the first Falcons' golfer to win a league title since Katie Park in 2007.

"I usually don't keep my score in my head," Chia said. "I just go out there and play for the best score I can get.

"I knew I had to keep my score close to Kathryn. If I could do that, then I knew I would have a chance. It was pretty cool to win league."

Chia's season was far from over.

Crescenta Valley's surge toward the end of the season propelled it to a sixth-place finish at the CIF Southern Section Central Team Divisional at Jurupa Hills on Oct. 27. Chia finished with a two-over-par 73 to finish tied for fourth.

At the CIF Southern Section Northern Individual Regionals at River Ridge Golf Club's Vineyard Course in Oxnard on Oct. 31, Chia notched a two-over-par-74 to tie for 23rd and advance.

Chia then participated in the CIF Southern Section Individual Final Championships at Talega Golf Club in San Clemente on Nov. 7 and carded a six-over-par 78 to finish in a four-way tie for 27th. Chia was one of 35 from the field of 92 to advance to the CIF Individual Final and Women's Southern California Golf Assn. Qualifying Tournament at The Golf Club at Rancho California in Murrieta on Nov. 10. Chia saw her season conclude after she shot a 10-over-par 82 to finish in an eight-way tie for 44th.

"I thought I started off well at River Ridge, but I didn't do as well as I wanted in the last two events," Chia said. "I was still good enough to get to the third round and I now have an even better understanding of what it will take to try to move on to state."

San Marino Coach Wyeth Collo said Chia's intangibles played just as vital a part in her success as anything else.

"She's very friendly and I've always liked her demeanor," Collo said. "She's ready to go every time and you can see how she's matured because she's worked on her game.

"Golf is such a mental game. She was steady and she never had a major blow-up."

Pope said Chia will strive to capture another league title and clear the final hurdle of advancing to the state tournament next season.

"I've been saying all along that I can consistently count on her being at or around par," Pope said. "She wants to take it to the next level."

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