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BOYS' GOLFER OF THE YEAR

Im Keeps Up His Course Work

After La Mirada junior shot six-under-par 66 to win the CIF-SCGA finals, he celebrated by going directly to a golf lesson.

June 21, 2003|Peter Yoon | Times Staff Writer

Looking back, the victory by Daniel Im at the season-ending California Interscholastic Federation-Southern California Golf Assn. finals didn't come completely out of the blue, but what he did afterward could be considered a bit surprising.

Im, a junior at La Mirada High, shot six-under-par 66 at the SCGA Golf Course in Murrieta on June 3 and missed the tournament record by one stroke. He hit 17 greens in regulation, did not three-putt and his closest competitor from a field of the top players in Southern California finished three back.

When it was over, Im drove directly to his private instructor in La Habra -- to take a lesson.

"I already had the time scheduled," he said. "I had to take it."

Such dedication has helped Im remain sharp over the last few years and turned him into one of the top-ranked junior golfers in the nation.

This year in high school competition, he averaged 34.7 -- more than a stroke under par -- in 17 nine-hole, regular-season matches. When the postseason began, he got even better.

His 67-68-70 in the Suburban League finals was good for a two-stroke victory. He shot two-under-par 70 and was medalist in the Southern Regional Individual at Black Gold in Yorba Linda. He finished 12th in the Southern Section finals, which was followed by his near-record performance in the CIF-SCGA finals.

Im is The Times' boys' golfer of the year.

"I played well, this season," he said. "But I could have played better."

As it is, Im, 18, practices about three hours a day and takes two lessons each week from noted instructor Bobby Lasken at Westridge Golf Club in La Habra. Lasken has been teaching Im for about 3 1/2 years and says his student, at his age, is as polished as they come.

"He's pretty far advanced from an all-around standpoint," Lasken said. "He's going to be a great player. I see him going on to some real good success."

Im incorporates a strict physical fitness routine into his training and has grown stronger over the last year. He can hit it long off the tee -- one drive traveled 340 yards in the CIF-SCGA finals -- and is a very good ball-striker.

An Advanced Placement student with a 3.8 grade-point average, he says he is working on improving the mental aspect of his game.

Im began playing at age 10, when -- at the behest of his grandfather -- he quit a promising career as a speedskater in South Korea. He spent a summer at a golf academy in Australia before moving to the United States.

"I was about to quit because after one year I couldn't break 100," Im said. "But I played every day for three months in Australia and I shot 78. I was still a short hitter, and my mom thought I would never make it, but I worked real hard."

A victory in a national tournament last summer helped his confidence and turned him into one of the top college recruits for 2004.

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THE TIMES' ALL-STAR BOYS' GOLF TEAM

*--* PLAYER OF THE YEAR Daniel Im La Mirada Jr FIRST TEAM Brandon Christianson Valencia Jr Finished third in Southern Section finals and averaged 70.3 for postseason. Highlight was shooting a 62 in Northern regional, among best scores ever in Southern Section competition Henry Liaw Los Altos Sr Averaged 72.1 for 16 regular-season matches, won fourth consecutive Miramonte League title and averaged 70.5 in four postseason rounds. Headed to Arizona Joe Lopez Ayala Sr Southern Section runner-up after a 67 at Canyon Country Club. Had a top-10 finish with 71 at CIF-SCGA finals and shot 67 in final round to win Sierra League title Garrett Sapp Gahr Jr Won Southern Section title by shooting a 66, one stroke off tournament record. Averaged 35.2 during regular season and 69.75 in postseason Josh Wooding Riverside Poly Sr Repeat all-region selection averaged 35.5 during 52 nine-hole rounds and broke par in four of five postseason rounds. Three-time Ivy League champion is headed to USC Coach of the Year: Aaron Solis, San Marcos Didn't have the superstars of years past and team was susceptible to defeat, but Solis convinced Lions they were still No. 1 and they responded with third consecutive Southern Section title SECOND TEAM Louie Bishop Linfield Christian Sr Scott Conway Paloma Valley Sr Chris Heintz Brea Olinda Sr Kevin Larsen San Marcos Sr Albert Lee Fairfax So Phil Telliard Riverside Poly Sr

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