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Column: Ivan Barahona Jr. of Crespi is preparing for the day a 10-foot putt is needed to win

Ivan Barahona Jr. practices his putting at home.
(Ivan Barahona Sr.)

In the backyard of the Barahona family home is a putting green. Whether it’s morning or evening, when Ivan Jr. is practicing his putting, it’s also dream time. Like a baseball player fantasizing about a 3-and-2 count with two outs in the ninth inning of a World Series game, Barahona imagines a putt to win the U.S. Open or the Masters.

“I’d say I have a 10-footer and I need to make the putt to win,” Barahona said. “Most of the time I’ve made it.”

A junior at Encino Crespi who’s committed to Long Beach State, Barahona is looking forward to competing for a Southern Section individual golf championship next month. He won the Mission League championship as a freshman in 2019, then golf was halted because of the COVID-19 shutdown in 2020.

“I’ve been practicing a lot,” he said. “I feel my game is good. It’s trusting myself and doing the right things. I’m hitting the ball real well.”

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Barahona’s father, Ivan Sr., is well known in the local basketball community. He guided Pacific Hills to five Southern Section titles and one state title until resigning in 2014 to become an assistant at Cal State Los Angeles and later coach the El Salvador national team. Now he focuses on helping his son in golf, recording his swings and driving him to events.

“He truly loves the game, truly loves to play,” Ivan Sr. said.

Ivan Jr. played basketball growing up but before entering high school he decided to concentrate on golf full time. But not before there was a little learning experience. He wanted to quit his eighth-grade basketball team but his dad told him no until he finished his commitment.

“I had a strange feeling something was going to happen,” Ivan Jr. said. “I was in the game for 60 seconds and fractured my wrist. I was crying. My mom was hugging me.”

And son told dad, “I told you so.”

The lesson was learned. You don’t quit after making a commitment, and Ivan Jr. is certainly committed to golf, from a putting green to a net to hit balls in the backyard. Both were much appreciated when golf courses were closed during the COVID-19 shutdown.

“It was tough,” he said. “I was so used to going to golf every day and being there six to nine hours. I would just go into the backyard, 30 minutes to an hour putting, hit balls for an hour to two hours working on drills in the game to stay in shape.”

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Golf is the type of game that requires confidence, repetition and dealing with pressure to be successful. Barahona explained his philosophy.

“If you practice right and you trust your game, it’s not that hard,” he said. “But sometimes it’s really difficult if you practice correctly and hit that shot 10,000 times, you imagine that shot, take one or two breaths, close your eyes and commit to that shot. My coach says focus on the next shot. It’s already in the past. You can’t let this next shot be bad and affect you.”

Ivan Sr. said he made it a point to give his son options beyond basketball.

“I wanted to choose something we didn’t know anything about. We chose golf,” he said. “I felt it would be easier on him.”

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Ivan Jr.’s earliest memory from his toddler days is hitting a plastic golf ball over the fence in his grandparents’ backyard.

“My grandma told my dad, ‘Maybe it’s time for real clubs.’”

The rest is history. He’ll be ready when a 10-foot putt is needed to win a big tournament. Practice makes perfect.


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