Johansen High School’s Daniel Pena grew taller and stronger during his sophomore year as his tee shots stretched longer and longer. The result was an impressive individual title at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Championship. That’s why he is The Bee’s choice as 2014 Boys Golfer of the Year.
On the course: Pena spiced his sophomore season by shooting an impressive 6-under 66 at The Reserve at Spanos Park, good for medalist honors at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Championship. Tellingly, that was 14 strokes better than his Masters score in 2013. Not only did he become Johansen’s second Masters medalist – Daniel Covrig won in 2009 – he also capped a three-week run during which he won the Modesto Metro Conference individual title by firing a 4-under 68 at Creekside and placed second at the Section Division I South. Pena, 5-foot-6 and 125 pounds as a freshman, grew to 6-0 and 160 this spring. The result was longer tee shots to go along with improved composure, often the bane of teen golfers. “Last year, I just got mad. If you’re not mad all the time, you can play good golf. I used to expect every shot to be good. I finally realized that’s not going to happen,” he said. Pena led the Vikings to their sixth MMC title in the last seven years. He compiled an MMC stroke-average of nearly 1-under, four full strokes better than a year ago. “He works extremely hard and is always practicing,” coach Dan Boer said. “He was hitting the ball extremely well late in the season and just played super golf.” Pena also credited swing coach Jim Toal, the former pro/manager at Spring Creek Country Club in Ripon, for his improvement.
Off the course: A self-described good student, Pena admits he sometimes daydreams during class about being on the golf course, and vice versa. Ultimately, golf is his sport. His grandfather introduced golf to his father, who in turn passed it down to Pena before he turned 5. He’s participated in the River Oaks junior golf and match-play tournament program and the First Tee of Central Valley and also has honed his game at McHenry Golf Center. The best place to find him is the practice tee and putting green at Creekside, his golf home.
Outlook: Pena already switched to a more stiff shaft on his driver since Masters, and he’s longer than ever off the tee. A busy summer of junior golf already has begun, and he also has scheduled other amateur events. Next spring promises a new challenge, given the fact Johansen will be rebuilding. He was the only non-senior in the lineup this season. “I hope to take more of a leadership role on the team,” he said. Though it’s still two years in his future, college already has been a consideration. “Ever since I was little, I’ve wanted to go to Stanford. As I get older, I realize how hard it is to get there.”
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Quotable: “After all my hard work, I expected something to come out of it. They say hard work pays off.”