Golfer named CCAA Athlete of the Year

Published 2002-08-28T00:00:00Z”/>


Adrian Palenchar<br>Staff Writer

Six. That’s the number of tournaments J.J. Jakovac won in 2001-2002. That’s also the number of awards and accreditation Jakovac took home in 2001-2002.

And, most surprisingly, that’s the number of years he has been golfing.

Jakovac capped off his highly accredited 2001-2002 season by being named the 2001-2002 California Collegiate Athletic Association Male Athlete of the Year. He had previously been named CCAA Golfer of the Year to go along with his NCAA championship, first-team All-American, first-team All-CCAA and first-team All-Region awards.

“When you start to take a look at what J.J. has accomplished, it’s really quite amazing,” said Chico State golf coach Keith Thomas. “And he just turned 20.”

Jakovac competed in the USGA National Amateur Tournament at the Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. Thursday he lost to the U.S. Junior Amateur champion Henry Liaw. Only 32 competitors remained when he lost.

“I played OK today, but not well,” Jakovac said after losing to Liaw. “I didn’t make any putts today, but that’s how it goes, I guess.”

Jakovac has been receiving plenty of media attention lately, including playing golf on ESPN. He has also been interviewed by Golf Digest and Golfweek.

“I kind of like the attention,” Jakovac said. “The magazines are interested in me because I’ve only been golfing since my freshman year in high school.”

Jakovac became interested in the sport because of his natural ability with the sport.

“Everyone kept telling me how good I was,” Jakovac said. “I enjoyed it because I got good fast.”

The strongest part of Jakovac’s game is his mental game. He described himself as a level-headed person.

“I try to stay calm and not let bad shots bother me,” Jakovac said.

His coach agrees.

“The best part of J.J.’s game is his mental game. You can’t rattle J.J.,” Thomas said. “He has the edge in every tournament he plays in.”

Jakovac doesn’t like to focus on any one part of his golf game but, instead, on the sum of the parts.

“I like to think that I don’t have any weak parts anymore,” Jakovac said.

His coach agreed with a chuckle.

“He can improve on his 70-foot-and-beyond putts. Other than that I can’t think of anything,” Thomas said.

Until Jakovac improves on his 70-foot putts, the best he will be able to do is win a national championship, which he did last year.

“It was unbelievable,” Jakovac said. “Anytime you win a national championship, the feeling is unreal.”

Last season the Wildcats finished fourth in the CCAA golf championship. The team looks to improve that finish in the 2002-2003 season.

“Chemistry is what makes this year’s team so strong,” Thomas said. “We didn’t lose any starters and we gained more players that can shoot par or better.”

Jakovac is one of the catalysts for the team’s chemistry.

“He boosts team confidence because we all feed off him,” said Chico golfer Scott Alward. “We strive to beat him.”

The Wildcats recruited Westlake High School standout Brian Van Heel. Van Heel won the CIF-SCGA High School Boys’ Golf Championship by outshooting his competition, which included Liaw of Los Altos. Van Heel’s name is now engraved on a plaque along with past champions Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, and Craig Stadler.

Along with Van Heel, the Wildcat’s picked up Jonathan Sapper from Fortuna and Mark Peterson from Oregon. Ben Knight also transferred programs from Butte College.

The team’s first match is scheduled for Sept. 30 – Oct. 1 at the Bellingham Golf & Country Club in Bellingham, Wash.

Adrian Palenchar can be reached at

<a href=”mailto:[email protected]”>[email protected]</a>