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SCOTTSDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 19: Team California with the PGA Junior League Champions' Trophy following the final session of the 2018 PGA Jr. League Championship presented by National Car Rental held at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona on November 19, 2018. Photo by Darren Carroll/PGA of America
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Encinitas Ranch teenage golfers come up aces to win national title

Encinitas Ranch’s John Mason has taught golf for a long time. But he’s short and to the point when requesting his players to produce two things.

“Have fun,” Mason said, “and get birdies.”

Mason’s bunch from Encinitas Ranch followed his orders and the result was winning the PGA Jr. League Championship in Scottsdale, Arizona, on Sunday. The area players brought back their second national title in four years in the 13-and-younger division by defeating Minnesota.

Mason’s charges made no mistakes near the lakes and seldom anywhere else on the Grayhawk Golf Club course. Encinitas Ranch’s 10-member squad blitzed the competition from around the U.S., winning the crown 6-0 to put Mason in seventh heaven.

“We just kept doing what we have done all year,” Mason said. “It was a nine-month journey.”

Mason never stopped believing and his players were faithful, too.

“They bought in hook, line and sinker,” Mason, 62, said.

Mason’s teaching comes with more than tips about the club striking the ball. He’s in tune with the mental game, too, and that might be the difference. He urges his players to perform with ease, confidence and not to get tangled up in the swing technique and be tormented over a wayward shot.

“And never come up short on your putts,” Mason said. “That is our motto because if it comes up short, it never has a chance to go in.”

Mason got his opportunity to chase his dream which revolved around that ball with dimples after a four-year stint in the Navy. He played at San Diego State and became a regular on the mini-tours that operate a level below the PGA Tour in 1982.

While never earning his PGA card, he earned his keep and traveled the world for 12 years. Then he helped get Encinitas Ranch Golf Course off the ground in 1997, with it opening a year later. He started coaching its Jr. PGA team in 2012, when there were about 9,000 players competing nationwide.

That number has swollen to 52,000. So excuse Mason if he swells with pride when mentioning his title-toting teenagers.

“There are so many good players that when you go to these junior events and you say, ‘Holy Moly, I’m glad I’m not playing against them,”’ Mason said.

Little do the players know golf is playing them.

“Golf teaches you humility,” Mason said. “No one ever masters golf. If you think you’re all that, then you play the game and you say, ‘I guess not.”’

It’s no mystery where the PGA Jr. League Championship trophy is residing and that’s up at Encinitas Ranch, thanks to Mason, but also the youth that is representing so well.

The squad includes long hitters Matthew “Big Country” Broder and Phillip “Boom Boom” Kench, and their teammates: Darren Ho, James Whitworth, Jasmine Kahler, Jay Leng Jr., Karen Tsuru, Nathan Moore, Ryan Abuan and Zander Grant.

“I’m in great spot,” Mason said. “I work at Encinitas Ranch and I live in Del Mar. You can’t beat that, right?”

That sounds familiar. The PGA Jr. League championship field said the same about Encinitas Ranch.