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O'Hara Leaves 'em Swinging at Santa Margarita

March 06, 2001|PETER YOON

Even before Tim O'Hara made the decision to leave Santa Margarita to coach football at Savanna, he could hear the questions.

Was he crazy for leaving one of the most successful golf programs in the state over the last decade, one that has won three CIF-SCGA and two Southern Section championships since 1993?

Why would anyone would walk away from a program that reloads every year with talented players from nearby Dove Canyon, Coto de Caza and Mission Viejo Country Clubs?

Why give up free rounds at Coto de Caza, Santa Margarita's home course.

But O'Hara, who was an assistant football coach at Santa Margarita and Saddleback College from 1992-98, says he'd be crazy not to leave.

The pay is better at Savanna, the school is much closer to his wife and four children at home in Orange and he was itching to get back into coaching football after a three-year layoff.

"I've given it a lot of thought," O'Hara said. "It's not something I just jumped at."

Football has always been O'Hara's first love, primarily for the difference a coach can make in the game.

"You're more of a manager in golf," he said. "There are so many things missing as a coach. You don't do a whole lot."

Because Savanna needed to fill its football vacancy immediately, O'Hara is leaving his teaching position at Santa Margarita effective April 2. He has been scrambling to get everything organized for his successor, who has not been named.

"It's a little disruptive," O'Hara said. "We're trying to get everything up and running, and we're trying to pick our top six. Our schedule is set, so that's not a problem and our booster club is pretty active, so that's a help."

The toughest part of the decision, O'Hara said, was telling his players.

"I told them that if things were perfect, I'd be able to finish the season," O'Hara said. "But they understand. This is a hard thing to walk away from, but I told them it's a part of life. People move on, you're going to have that in a lot of situations throughout life."

Taylor Wood, a junior and Santa Margarita's top player, will miss the only high school coach he's known.

"We're all pretty bummed out," Wood said. "There's a bond that's grown between us. It's a hard thing to accept, but I'm really happy for him that he's been given that opportunity."

Wood also expressed concern about who would take over the program, fearful that the new coach might change its direction or disrupt the chemistry.

"I'm scared of someone coming in that doesn't know how to run the program," Wood said.

But O'Hara said that with the way players are prepared well before they arrive at Santa Margarita, the current players need not worry.

"The program is really on auto pilot," O'Hara said. "The kids were upset when I told them, but I joked with them, 'How many of your golf games have I actually improved over the years?' Not many."


Rain washed out much of the opening week, but Canyon managed to squeeze in two matches--one of the few county teams to play more than once last week.

The Comanches split their matches, defeating El Dorado Monday and losing to No. 10 Orange Lutheran Thursday.

One of Canyon's top players, John Quaranta, was involved in a car accident and is out indefinitely, Coach Jan McKendrick-Harold said.


More rain will likely cancel several matches between top-10 teams this week.

Seventh-ranked Brea Olinda and No. 10 Orange Lutheran are slated to play today, as are No. 9 Villa Park and No. 2 Santa Margarita. Villa Park and Orange Lutheran are scheduled to meet Wednesday.


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