By Megan Forrester
As coach of both the boys’ and girls’ golf teams at Arcadia High School, Jason Jones brings both the passion of a long-time golfer to the game – which he describes as “blissfully complex” – and the enriching approach of a teacher to provide the best overall experience he can to his players.
“Being on a golf course, which by its very nature is simultaneously beautiful and challenging, allows athletes to get to know one another in an environment away from the main campus of high school,” Jones said. This helps them focus on competing in the sport while also building relationships with other players.
“What that does is it sets a different subculture from campus life,” said Jones, now in his sixth year of coaching. “When you’re on a golf course, you truly get to know your athletes from a personal standpoint; and I get to know them as the kids that they are, rather than just the athlete.”
The season for both the boys and girls began in early August.
Jones is working to grow the competitive culture in his players with an eye toward improving their skills and an approach to increase their current success and future opportunities as female athletes.
“Our girls need to realize what being able to contend and win means for future opportunities,” Jones said. “With the female golfer segment not as populated with the same caliber of talent as the male segment, girl golfers in general have an enormous advantage to capitalize on future golfing opportunities.”
With eight returning golfers and 10 girls on the team, their sense of unity and pride of being a part of the culture should help them succeed throughout the season.
Jones said the girls already find strength in their relationships as teammates and genuinely enjoy the time they get to spend together as a team. His goal this season is to up their competitive approach to “beast mentality.”
“I don’t want you to just drive the ball, I want you to drive it with intention,” Jones says to his players. “I need you to snarl and growl a little bit to go after the game.”
This year Jones is squarely focused on positioning his team to win a third state championship cup in a row.
“I want to feed the fire,” Jones said. “I think we have every intention to showcase our skills and to foster the name brand of Arcadia from a golf perspective and we want to bring home another cup.”
Not only has this group succeeded in winning the state championship twice, but these young men have earned several additional recognitions for their stellar play, such as placing first at the 2017 Antigua Invitational, winning the 2018 Brophy Invitational and shattering records at the 2017 and 2018 Dobson Classics (the boys had a two-day course record collectively of 35 under par and a daily record of 18 under).
“They’re breaking records adults cannot even achieve. It has been pretty spectacular to watch,” said Jones.
Jones said the only real challenge he sees for this team is realizing that although golf is an individual sport, it requires a team dynamic in high school. This may be difficult for longtime players who’ve dedicated a lot of time to building their game, but Jones is trying to instill this approach in the boys’ team.
“I think it’s invaluable for them to not only understand their strengths independently, but they need to be able to work together,” Jones said. “They don’t need to be best friends, but they need to work together to achieve the common goal.”
One aspect Jones doesn’t need to worry about with these young men is their love of the sport and their eagerness to absorb everything about it.
When the Phoenix Open comes to the TPC Scottsdale each year in late January, the boys’ eyes are glued to their favorite players on the green.
“I don’t have to convince these boys that golf is cool,” Jones said. “If there were baseball cards for golf, they would have the set.”
WHO TO WATCH
Players on the fast track to great things this season are sophomore Ella Crowson, who went to the state tournament as a freshman last year, junior Gavin Aurilia, who has a USC verbal commitment, junior Ethan Klose and senior Logan Kenly.
“While these teams continue to wow crowds and rack up the recognition, the key ingredients to a quality high school experience are the memories you take with you, from time spent at school, making friends and, of course, from the love of golf,” Jones said. “A bad day at the course is better than any good day anywhere else.”