The Laguna Beach High School boys’ golf team ended a four-year title drought by beating Estancia 212 – 215 on Thursday, April 22, at Aliso Viejo Country Club. It was the fourth Orange Coast League title overall for 12-year head coach Scott Finn.
The Breakers followed that win with regular-season victory over the Costa Mesa Mustangs on Tuesday, April 28, at Ben Browns, capping a perfect 9-0 league record.
To go undefeated in any league in any sport is quite an accomplishment, even more so when you consider that one quarter of the roster is made up of freshmen, and all 12 players have started at least one match this season. “It’s been an all out team effort,” said Finn. “Everyone’s played just a pivotal role.”
Senior team captain John Grayden has played perhaps the most pivotal role, medaling in eight out of nine league matches to lead the young Breaker squad to the best finish in program history. “It took a lot of hard work from every single member of the team,” said Grayden. “It was nice to finish off my senior season with a league title.”
As the team’s No. 2 player, freshman Drake Dvorak is often paired with Grayden. “He’s pretty focused out there. It’s fun playing with a serious, good golfer,” said Dvorak. “It just kind of lifts you up a little and pushes you seeing how good he is.”
Dvorak, who started playing Junior World tournaments at 12 and once shot a 64 as a middle-schooler, credits Grayden with lifting his spirits as he tried to find his swing during a season-long slump. “When you’re like kind of down or not playing well, he has good words for you,” said Dvorak.
Grayden didn’t take up the game until seventh grade. But that didn’t stop him from going out for varsity his freshman year. At first, Finn had his doubts about the newcomer. “It’s a tough game,” said Finn, who didn’t start playing until he was 21 as a sideline to his pursuit of a surfing career.
Grayden made the team and wound up with an 8-over-par season average. “I didn’t really know what to expect when I first started,” he said. “I just wanted to keep getting better.”
And he did, lowering his average to 6.8 over his sophomore year and 4 over last season. He is now a scratch golfer, and has twice shot two under in tournament play. “It definitely wasn’t easy. I kind of had to work my way through it,” he said. But, “I’m glad I put in all that work. It’s starting to pay off.”
Finn saw leadership qualities in Grayden early on and made him captain during his junior season. “He puts others before himself and he works hard. He’s humble. Those are just good qualities for anybody to be around,” said Finn.
The captain says he is merely reflecting the example set by Tim Peterson (’12), another Breaker captain. “He kind of put me under his wing,” Grayden said. “I felt like it was my duty to do that to the freshmen.”
Giving back comes natural to Grayden. He spent the last two summers working with disabled youth at Special Camp for Special Kids in San Juan Capistrano, an experience that “definitely put things into perspective” for him, when he realized how much a few hours of his time meant to those kids. “They had the time of their lives,” he said.
Beneath a calm, easy going exterior, Grayden said he sometimes gets a little tense on the course. That’s when Finn steps in. “He kind of guides me and makes sure I stay mentally focused,” said Grayden.
Although young, the Breakers are deep. Grayden, Dvorak and junior Max Brown form the team’s nucleus, while junior Ryan Gee, who is also competing as half of Laguna’s top doubles team in tennis, has made some key contributions.
The three remaining starting spots on the six-person team are chosen based on scores during practice rounds. “Every time they tee it up, we keep track of it all year,” said Finn. “Competition brings out the best in people and prepares them for the actual tournaments.”
Intra-squad competition has not only brought out their best, it also has brought them closer. They regularly go out to dinner after matches, and they hang out together both on and off campus. “It’s tough with a big age gap, but our team chemistry is pretty good,” said Grayden.
It’ll take more than good chemistry to get past the first round of CIF, though.
“We’re just going to try and have fun and try to play our hearts out,” said the eternally upbeat Grayden. “At the end of the day, it comes down to how we play.”
Finn has a more forward-looking vision. “They’re pretty young,” he said. “My hope for them is to just play their best and build as much experience as they can in CIF, both team and individual.”
However his final high school season ends up, Grayden will study mechanical engineering next year at Purdue University in Indiana, where he hopes to make it as a walk on. “I just have to keep improving to be able to do that,” he said.