Jason Navarro has already received numerous phone calls and texts wishing him congratulations for the Christopher High boys golf team winning the Pacific Coast League Mission Division championship.
However, the first-year Cougars’ coach isn’t ready to celebrate just yet. Even though Christopher has built up an enormous points lead heading into the upcoming league finals by virtue of dominating the regular-season, it still has to show up and compete.
“I want to wait until the league finals are over (to celebrate),” Navarro said five days before the 18-hole final will be contested at Laguna Seca Golf Ranch in Monterey. “The points are doubled in the league finals so there’s potential for movement. (Even so) the point spread is very, very large, and it would be very hard for us not to win. But I want to stay humble and play as is, because that’s what we’ve done all year. But on paper we’re the strongest team in this division.”
In six round-robin tournaments this season, the Cougars won five and took second in the other. They won because of a consistent No. 1 player in sophomore Josh Jang, and a balanced starting lineup that was capable of shooting low.
Martin Fu, Cameron Green, Tomas Gallardo, Mateo Badillo and Jason Navarro, the coach’s son, all have had shining moments this season. The team’s best performance came in the final league round-robin tournament on April 26 at its home Gilroy Golf Course. The Cougars shot a season-low 212 to win by 25-plus strokes.
Jang shot a 40, Navarro 41, Badillo 42, Green 43, Fu 46 and Gallardo 50. Navarro said sophomore Jang is the complete package: talented, smart and passionate about all things golf.
“He just loves golf and all the technical aspects of it,” Navarro said. “He will go through the lineup and tell the guys, ‘Hey, this is what we need to look out for on this course.’ He lives and breathes golf. He’s got an above 4.0 GPA and is just a great young man. It’s crazy he’s just a sophomore, and I can’t wait to see what he’ll be bringing to the league when he’s a senior.”
Navarro added that what sets Jang apart is the mental side of the game and his ability to break down swing dynamics.
“Josh understands the different quadrants but just as important, he’s able to control the ball and put it in those quadrants,” Navarro said.
The younger Navarro is a co-captain with Jang, as voted on by the team. The elder Navarro said his son and Jang work well together because they complement each other’s strengths. Whereas Jang is more technical, Navarro said his son is the organizer and makes sure everyone is on the same page and at the same place.
Even though Jang is the clear-cut No. 1 player on the team, Fu and Green have been the team’s medalists as well. Navarro’s 41 in the regular-season finale also was just one stroke off of Jang’s score, a testament to Christopher’s balance.
Fu is a freshman and has exceeded all expectations, playing at a level belying his age.
“He came in and did very well,” Navarro said. “He’s a big part of our success and is very consistent, not only with his golf swing, but his ball placement, chipping and putting. And so you rely on that and he’s done wonders.”
Navarro has been happy for the senior trio of Gallardo, Green and Badillo, who have been able to enjoy the final season of their high school careers after the previous two seasons were disrupted due to Covid.
“Those three guys are wonderful to be around,” Navarro said. “This was a big year for them because they lost two years of golf. Their scores have kind of been all over the place, but after each match they pick each other up.”
The Cougars’ only runner-up finish came in the penultimate regular-season tournament at Del Monte Golf Course, where Monterey High prevailed by just three strokes. Not to be deterred, CHS rebounded with a dominating performance in the regular-season finale.
Even more so than the team’s success, Navarro said he’s enjoyed getting to know the players and what makes them tick.
“Cameron Green is an amazing athlete and is going to play hockey in college,” Navarro said. “He’s a leader without having that title. We have some amazing young men on this team.”
Green, Navarro and Fu are all products of the First Tee program and have made dramatic strides in their games. The elder Navarro said his son’s scoring has lowered because he saw the competitiveness on the team.
“He was fighting to be in the starting six and knew he had to step up his game to stay in the lineup,” the CHS coach said.
Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]