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O'Connor is on the upswing

Woodbridge High 16-year-old is youngest to win Tustin Ranch Golf Club's 2011 Club Championship and has a bright future in the game.

August 06, 2011|By Joe Haakenson, Special to the Daily Pilot

Next time they won't overlook the skinny kid.

Ryan O'Connor, who spreads out 145 pounds on his 6-foot frame, might not pose an intimidating presence at first glance, but put a golf club in his hands and everything changes.

O'Connor, who will enter his junior year at Woodbridge High next month, schooled the field when he became the youngest golfer — at age 16 — to win the Tustin Ranch Golf Club's 2011 Club Championship in late-July.

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O'Connor shot a two-round total of 156, rallying from a two-stroke deficit with a 76 in the final round to win by three strokes.

"I wasn't expecting to win," said O'Connor, who played on the boys' golf team at Woodbridge last year as a sophomore. "The first day I played OK (80), and the second day I beat everyone by four or five strikes. It was exciting. It definitely was different playing against people that were older than me."

O'Connor also placed third when he shot a 74 at the Kikkor Golf Championship at Mile Square Golf Course on July 26. And back in May, he won the Taquitz Creek Spring Classic with a 73.

His success is the result of a new mindset, a more mature approach.

"Last year I didn't get that competitive," he said. "This year I took the initiative to practice every day and I'm getting better. I'm excited about my progress."

Driving the ball is the best part of his game, even though one might wonder where he gets the power to hit it 295-300 yards with such a slight build.

"It's pretty surprising how far I hit the ball," he said, then gave an explanation. "Strong core, good swing, stay on one plane, have great torque."

He's improved his putting in the last year, but said his short game is still a work in progress.

"Sometimes I miss-hit from the fairway and then I need to get up and down," he said. "It's the weak link of my game right now."

O'Connor, though, is headed in the right direction. He plays at least nine holes every day, and "usually it's not just for fun. Every round I'm trying to improve."

On the weekends he'll play with – and against – his dad Tom, who is pretty good himself and provides some competition.

"It's a battle between us, but I usually win," he said. "If I don't play my game, he can get me."

Tom was the one who introduced O'Connor to golfing back when O'Connor was just 3 or 4 years old.

"My first set of clubs was a Snoopy set, there was a picture of Snoopy on the front," O'Connor said. "He'd always tell me, take the 5-iron and lay it flat, and I'd hit a flop shot.

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