Brennan Amirkhizi smashed his personal best by two strokes with a four-under-par 67 at Oakmont Country Club on April 18 as Vaquero Men’s Golf stuck gold for the first time in a Western State Conference tournament since its 2008 return to Glendale College.
“For GCC to win against the best team in the state, and especially on Vaquero home turf at Oakmont, was just incredible,” said head coach Greg Osbourne. Undefeated until today, that No. 1 team was College of the Canyons, which even won at a four-year college Division One tournament recently.
WSC refers to the 14 LA-area schools that are members of the California Community College Athletic Association. The seven community colleges competing in this tournament were Glendale, Ventura, Santa Barbara, Citrus, Bakersfield, Hancock and College of the Canyons.
Budget cuts brought an end to GCC’s golf program 25 years ago. But thanks to the support of Glendale’s Oakmont Country Club members, Osbourne received the funding and a “Vaquero carte blanche” to practice and compete at the 18-hole course 2.2 miles from campus.
Thanks to the allure of Oakmont, one of the best country clubs in Southern California, Osbourne has been able to attract some of the best golfers in the area.
“We’ve been able to build a Division One program at the junior college level,” he said.
Osbourne, a PGA member and head golf pro at Chevy Chase Golf Course, hand-picked this season’s group of players from among the top-ranked high school players in the area.
His recruiting efforts certainly paid off, especially when it came to landing Amirkhizi from Taft High School in Woodland Hills.
“My best on this course was 69,” said Amirkhizi. “Sixty-seven is my new best. And it’s at a tournament, so it feels great.”
Individually, the Vaqs shot as follows: Brennan Amirkhizi (67), Chris Ramirez (75), Jin Park (77), Michael Timpson (78), Danny Fernandez (80), and Vincent Lam (82).
Glendale’s top-five-player combined total was (377) beating their arch-rival College of the Canyons (380) by three strokes. The other teams’ rankings were the following: Ventura (389) third, Santa Barbara (391) fourth, Citrus (403) fifth, Bakersfield (405) sixth and Hancock (411) last.
Amirkhizi performed well despite sending his first shot out- of-bounds in front of a crowd that included his mother, Rebekah; father, Kian; and younger brother, Marek. Marek, 9, said that he and his 12-year-old sister, Samantha are martial arts enthusiasts, and he is proud of his older brother Brennan. He wants to win like him when he grows up.
“We’ve been telling Brennan he has to win this tournament for weeks,” said Kian Amirkhizi.
Besides Coach Osbourne, Brennan’s mentor Dan Martin, the head teaching pro at Rustic Canyon Golf Club in Moorpark, is probably the one most responsible for teaching Brennan how to play golf, Kian said.
“I was obsessed with golf since [Brennan] was very, very young, and it was his dad’s dream to see him play golf,” said Kian. “Of course, he excelled.”
In anticipation of a scholarship to a four-year university, Brennan’s parents made things much easier for him.
“He used to have three different part-time jobs, said Kian. “We said, ‘Just quit. We can support you this semester.’ Their decision paid off because this was his most focused competition yet.
Kian said his son Brennan is carrying 13.5 units at GCC and doing well academically. His math, English and business classes make 11 units, and he earns 2.5 units credit for taking golf, not to mention the glory if he medals.
“It was a bit of a roller-coaster ride today,” said Kian.
After that first shot out-of-bounds, his father did not give up hope. He said to himself, “Well, it can only go one of two ways. He could turn it around, or it could be a disaster.
“Then, man! It was one birdie after another until he was five under!” said Kian. Brennan had four birdies in-a-row and a total of eight on the whole course, with six pars and four bogies.
Amirkhizi heard his father’s excitement and came over from the display wall where his score of 67 in bright red numerals was still making him beam.
“After that [first bogey] I tried to collect myself and just play my game,” said Amirkhizi. “I stripped it on the front nine, meaning I was hitting good shots: almost every hole a birdie. It almost felt like I birdied every hole.”
On the 18th hole, he came close to getting an eagle (two under par). From 59 yards out he arched a 60 degree shot that just “burned” past the edge of the cup, he said.
“The whole crowd was just like, ‘Whoa!'”
“That was the best round that I’ve seen anybody play from Glendale College since I’ve been here,” said Osbourne. “He was thinking, and he played his heart out.”
No. 2 scorer Ramirez (75) said, “I’m really, really happy for Brennan. That’s our first under- par-round in a while; and to do it at home at a tournament is a big, big deal.”
Ramirez’s personal best at Oakmont is 69, and his average round is 72 or 73 he said. So this four-over-par 75 made it a “frustrating day, but at least I gave it my all.”
“One of my birdies was a 15-footer on hole number 7, which came right after a bogie. I was thinking, ‘Just relax, I don’t have to make a birdie.’ And then I did.
“Things happen when you go for the gold,” said Ramirez. “Especially on the ninth hole – never go long. Always play it safe and aim for the middle of the green,” He made a double-bogie when he hit his second shot over the green with a little “too much adrenaline.”
But it was “smooth-sailing” once he got to the back nine. And his next birdie was an easy tap-in birdie.
No. 3 for the day was Jin Park (77), who said he always puts a red star on his ball to mark it for luck. He said, “I always think to myself, ‘I’m a star.'”
Park, who started on hole number 10, shot even par on the back nine, but then broke down toward the front nine.
Park said he started golf as a freshman in high school and worked at it 10-12 hours a day like it was a full-time job under teaching pro Zach Allen at the De Bell Golf Club in Burbank.
Park is currently working on not hitting the ball too far. “You have to hit it just right,” he said. “Birdies will come if you aim for a par. So just play for par and one day you’ll get a birdie. Don’t aim for birdies or you may over-shoot. Bogies will come too, but don’t get mad because a birdie will come later.
“We have to be humbler as we get better,” he said. “Our team is like best friends. We like to hang out after school and after tournaments. They’re all good guys.”
No. 4 scorer Timpson (78) was the No. 1 player going into the tournament. Timpson had a few bad breaks on the putting green and couldn’t quite settle down to make the important shots he needed.
He had an entourage including his father, Robert Timpson, and his professional golf instructor Gary Sexton from Angeles National Golf Club in Sunland. Robert said his son was just plugging along and that the gray and chilly weather made the greens a bit slick.
No. 5 scorer Fernandez (80) said, “Everything was going like 10 or 15 yards farther than you wanted it to.”
Nonetheless, his proud parents looked on with emphatic support.
Fernandez did his best to not be the weakest link and at least pulled that off. His (80) counted and helped his team clinch the win.
No. 6 scorer Lam (82), whose score was not included in the team total (377), said, “Never give up – you never know when your team is going to need your score.”
“[The Vaqs] played as hard as they could, [especially] in front of the future recruits I invited who were watching to decide whether to try out,” said Osbourne. “They’ll definitely want to come [to GCC] now.”
GCC’s golf teams were welcome on the Oakmont course until Glendale’s golf program was cut in 1985.
Now it costs $40,000 to join the country club, plus $800 to $1,500 in monthly dues, depending on the type of membership. To bring guest on the course will cost an additional $95.
“It wasn’t easy for GCC to get to play here for free,” said Osbourne. “They finally accepted us [back] after seeing the quality of player I brought in.”
Lindsey Sevier, membership services director, said she loves working at Oakmont because the members are “great and it’s like a big family.” Every member is a part-owner of the club.
“We love Glendale College to come here, play here and practice here. So they’re part of our family too,” she said.
Oakmont member Mike Haney pioneered the return of the Vaq’s to Oakmont. Haney is a former Vaquero who played on the golf team of 1970-71. He was inducted into the GCC Hall of Fame in 2006 and is on the Glendale College Foundation.
He said he challenged the foundation to bring golf back to Glendale College and with the help of Ann Ransford, former director of communications, marketing and the foundation, developed a committee which launched a capital campaign to raise the new golf program funds: this time for men and women. “We got enough money for bags, shirts and travel expenses. And then we got the votes needed.”
Oakmont has now made GCC its team, and Vaquero players are very privileged to have access to such a fine course.
After seeing winners like Tammy Panich, who won the state for the Vaq women just this fall, Oakmont members and the committee have proof that their generosity has come to fruition.
With this WSC conference win and Amirkhizi’s amazing performance, Oakmont is all the more delighted to host the GCC golf program.
“Winning this tournament is a true landmark for us,” said Osbourne.
On Monday the Vaqueros competed in a 36-hole, WSC league championship at Los Serranos Golf & Country Club in Chino Hills. They played the par-74 South course, which is the longest in Sothern California.
Timpson medaled with a 36-hole total of 142, the best score of the conference. His 67 on the first round was an unprecedented seven-under-par.
The individual results were: Timpson 142 (67/75), Amirkhizi 148 (73/75), Fernandez 153 (79/74), Lam 157 (80/77), Ramirez 160 (77/83), and Park 169 (81/88).
The team results were College of the Canyons (747), Glendale (760), Hancock (774), Santa Barbara (779), Citrus (783), Bakersfield (786), and Ventura (DQ). Ventura was disqualified because two players fell below the full-time status requirement of 12 units to compete.
The top 10 golfers in the league will proceed to the regionals as individuals. Amirkhizi is now ranked No. 2 in the league; Timpson is ranked No. 7. But since the whole team is going, all six Vaq players will be competing as individuals there as well.
Glendale qualified for the regionals as a team for the first time in the program’s four-year history. The Vaqs came in second with a 760 (367/384) finishing second in both rounds to College of the Canyons 747.
“It’s lucky we didn’t go out there and flounder because we could’ve got nipped.” said Osbourne. Only the two best teams now move on to the regionals: College of the Canyons and Glendale.
The Southern California Regionals will be held May 9 at Bermuda Dunes in Palm Springs. Tee-off is at 8 a.m.