Chico State golfer takes national title

When Chico State University’s J.J. Jakovac took on the nation’s best college duffers at a Florida golf course last week, he knew eyes were on him. While Jakovac’s prowess is widely known on the West Coast circuit—he had already won five tournaments this year—the East Coast players, he felt, weren’t giving him his due.

He showed them: Jakovac placed first at the NCAA Division II Golf Championship. His total for four rounds was 285, including a 66—his tournament best and five under par for the Mission Inn Resort Course. He tallied five birdies in all and made no bogeys.

For those readers whose knowledge of things golf-related is limited to Caddyshack, a national title is a pretty big deal.

“I was four shots back going into the final round,” Jakovac said. Then, he said, “I played the best nine holes of my life.” He finished three above the next-best contender.

He said it came down to a mental game: “The more nervous I got, the better I played.

“I don’t let little things bother me, like having a bad hole,” he said, adding that golf—which he has been at for five years—is much different from more team-oriented sports. “Your game doesn’t rely on somebody else,” he said. “It’s you and the course out there.”

That said, he’s grateful for the support of his teammates and Chico State coaches.

Coach Keith Thomas said Jakovac’s strength was “definitely staying focused on the golf tournament. You can’t take a break mentally.” To add to the pressure, Jakovac had never played that particular course before.

Thomas, who replaced Dennis Varley as head golf coach this year, said the university’s strong team this year goes a long way toward showing Chico State it made a good decision in reinstating the golf program back in 1996.

“Chico has never really been a powerhouse in golf,” Thomas said. “You can look for our team to do very well next year.”

Jakovac, who is a sophomore, will be spending the summer competing in tournaments all over the United States and Canada. Since he can’t earn money playing until he turns pro, his parents are helping him out and he’s bunking with friends as he travels.