|Posted by Mac D on January 19, 2012 at 2:35 AM|
Life can be described and symbolized in many ways. The growth of a flower and a roller coaster ride are some common examples but for Jonnie Motomochi his young and aspiring life can be described as the flight of a golf ball.
After contact, the ball gracefully takes off into the air in a beautiful sight and sound, traveling at high speeds, over a long distance before coming back down to earth and eventually to a stop. After this whirl wind the ball is eventually sunk into the hole completing a great journey.
This journey parallels the one Motomochi has taken as he has made his way from toddler to Senior at Oregon State where his life’s golf ball is about to be putted in for the last time.
Like most young athletes Motomochi found the sport he would learn to love and sweat over on television watching the greats -- Jack Nicklaus being his favourite -- dreaming he too could do the same one day. At the age of three his father, Gary took young Jonnie to the local Par-54 Sunshine Hills Golf Course, Delta where he would start to learn and hone his skill of the game first at the driving range and then on the actual course.
It would not take long before both the younger Motomochi and elder to realize something special was going on. Motomochi would take to the sport like a dog to a bone and from those early days the rest was history as his life’s golf ball was being launched by the junior sized driver.
At the tender age of ten a star was born, as Motomochi would win the 2001 US Kids Golf World Championship at Jekyll Island, Georgia. The following year, Motomochi would set out to defend his title but first embarked on a 23 day road trip with his father driving down the west coast making a few stops along the way to play in junior tournaments where he placed third and first at one in Palm Springs. After reaching Los Angeles the Motomochi’s would head east to Williamsburg, Virginia where Motomochi would re-claim his title as winner of the 2002 US Kids World Championship.
Following his second World Title, Motomochi was starting to be recognized for his skill, as schools such as Stanford were starting to take notice of the young golf phenom, but that was just the beginning. In 2003 Motomochi would become the youngest player to ever qualify for the Canadian Amateur Championship at the age of 12 by shooting a 77 on the par-73 course.
With being the youngest ever at anything, especially in sports, the media was all over the young Motomochi.
“It was cool, but too much for a twelve year old,” recalls Motomochi when looking back, “but it did help me with recruiting later on and was a great experience.”
Motomochi was proud of his accomplishment at the Canadian Amateur Championship as he played against golfers who were much older than him, with some being in university. The good fortune was not over as he received a pleasant surprise from the great Greg “The Shark” Norman who happened to be promoting his GPS product at nearby Mayfair Lakes in Richmond. Motomochi was asked if he would like to play a round with the former world number one golfer and of course he did.
“It was unbelievable to get a chance to play with Greg Norman” said Motomochi, “it was quite something to be just a kid and play with one of the greats.”
After playing with Norman and in the Canadian Amateur Championship it was back onto the road where Motomochi was looking for the three-peat at the US Kids Gold World Championship and just like 2001 and 2002 he won the 2003 event as a 12 year old. 2003 was quiet the year for the soon to be teenager and to add icing on the top, schools were sending pamphlets by the dozens hoping to lure the star to their school.
In 2006, Motomochi represented Canada against Ireland helping the team win the tournament for the first time in six years.
The following year, Motomochi was able to play at Torrey Pines for the first time in his career and in 2008 he returned again to the legendary golf course for the Junior World Championship which was also hosting the U.S. Open. He finished the tournament with a tie for 26th.
All this was going on during his final two years of high school and the height of his recruitment. Motomochi held a top three of Kent State, Illinois and Oregon State.
Living in Delta, British Columbia the climate is very mild as it sees on average just 31cm (12 inches) of snow a year with around 24 of the 31cm coming in December and January. Champaign, Illinois sees an average of 71 cm (28 inches) of snow a year, Kent, Ohio 150cm (60 inches) and Corvallis, Oregon 15cm (6 inches). Why does this matter? “I hate snow” was Motomochi’s answer and by that comment one can see why Oregon State became the University of his choice. Another factor though was the sleepy college town feel of Corvallis which was a big pull. On his visit Motomochi “fell in love with [Oregon State]” and “knew I wanted to go to a small town that was also close to home.” Corvallis is a six and a half hour drive back to home.
The two main universities in the state of Oregon are Oregon State and the University of Oregon which is located in Eugene. In Eugene it is not a big thing if one sees a Beaver logo or clothing apparel but in Corvallis it is the opposite. “If you see a Duck logo, or anything people are not happy.” The rivalry between the two schools is called the Civil War game and it is the greatest in football, basketball and volleyball. A win in any of those games can make the season all the better.
As a Freshman Motomochi took part in eight tournaments as well as the Pac-10 Championships. His best finish was a tie for 22nd in the Wyoming Cowboy Classic. In 2009-2010 he played in half of the tournaments and finished with a scoring average of 73.95 – almost two full stokes lower than his freshman year -- and his best finish was 13th at the Alister MacKenzie Invitational. Motomochi also took part in his second straight Pac-10 Championships where he finished 42nd. That year Oregon State finished 16th nationally but lost their Coach, Brian Watts to Army due to greener pastures. Every year Motomochi improved with his Junior season being a coming out party as he played in all eleven tournaments and was selected to the Pac-10 All-Academic Second Team to go along with his first top-10 finish at the Pacific Invitational where he placed 7th. By the end of his Junior season, Motomochi finished with three top-20 placings. As well as playing in his third Pac-10 Championships Motomochi also took part in the NCAA Regionals.
Following the season to go along with his Pac-10 All-Academic selection, Motomochi was named 2011 Cleveland Golf/Srizon All-America Scholar which was selected by the Golf Coaches Association of America and was also recognized as a 2011 Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar.
This will be Motomochi’s, Senior season and he hopes to go out with a bang improving on his breakout Junior campaign. He will also graduate in December of this year with a degree in New Media Communications where he hopes to work as a sports broadcaster. He is comfortable being in front of a camera which he can attribute to the press he received at such a young age.
Motomochi has been told he could make a career out of golf, capitalizing on his dream but the passion required to move to the next level really is not there. “I feel I could do it and others think so too…but that passion is not there to want to work every day for it to be a career at the next level.”
Motomochi’s life’s golf ball may be about to sink into the 18th hole after traveling thousands of yards and ending up on the green for one last final putt. But like golf, there is always another round to cart off to and Motomochi will do just that with his career in broadcasting.
Part two tomorrow looking at the life of a Student-Athlete.
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