Jon Levy, the men’s golf coach at Scottsdale Community College, finally got a course he liked for the National Junior College Athletic Association championship.
Given the right opportunity, his team took it to the bank last week by winning the school’s 10 th national title at Longbow Golf Club in Mesa — the first in Levy’s four years at the helm.
“The Artichokes are back with a vengeance,’’ quipped the 30-year-old Levy, who had watched his team finish fifth, fifth and eighth in his previous three years. “To host the tournament and win it, and to get all the support we did from our faculty and friends, well, it was a great, great week.’’
Scottsdale Community College always has been a golf powerhouse in the junior college ranks. But Levy’s teams had been plagued by wacky weather and weird course conditions/setups in Dodge City, Kan., (2004-05) and Ruidoso, N.M. (2006).
“The first year in Kansas, we had 50 mph winds, and basically the same thing the next year,’’ Levy said. “Then we played it down in New Mexico last year, and 64-under par won on a pitch-and-putt course that didn’t have any grass on the fairways.
“So those first three years, it was more a survival test than golf. But this year, the kids were ready, and the course was absolutely perfect. I can’t give enough credit to (Longbow superintendent) Greg Gavelek.’’
Armed with the fearsome foursome of Rich Saferian, Braxton Marquez, Kyle Kallan and Jacob McKinley, who finished first, third, fourth and fifth, respectively, the Artichokes proved there is no “r’’ in their nickname — ’Chokes. Rallying from early deficits, SCC won by 18 shots over Midland (Texas) College.
“We had some great local talent, and a lot of team synergy,’’ Levy said of the winning combination. Marquez is from Scottsdale, McKinley from Tucson and Kallan from Peoria.
“Mostly, these were just great young men with a lot of character who pushed themselves to the next level,’’ he added.
In the process, SCC opened the door for many more titles to come. While the team will lose its top two players — Marquez to Arizona State, and McKinley to a college unknown — freshmen Saferian, Kallan and J.D. Guiney of Ireland all return.
“Rich really came on at the end of the season just by believing in himself,’’ Levy said of Saferian, who also captured medalist honors at the regional. “And we have four or five other guys who can play, as well as three or four recruits coming in ... including a kid from Ireland named Ross Bell who has a very impressive resumé.’’
Levy also seems to be coming into his own as a coach. He wasn’t exactly a big name when he was hired four years ago after previously playing on numerous minitours and teaching golf at Rio Salado in Tempe.
“My goal as coach is to help my players skip some of the mistakes I made as a player,’’ Levy said. “I want to help them make the right choices and be successful on whatever path they choose in their lives.’’
Which is to take nothing away from winning national title No. 10, Levy added.
“I knew we were a better program than the earlier results (from the previous three seasons), and these young men proved it.’’