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All-County boys golf: Capistrano Valley Christian’s Luke Powell is the O.C. player of the year

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ALL-COUNTY BOYS GOLF TEAM 2023

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Luke Powell, Capistrano Valley Christian, Sr.

May 3. It’s a date still circled in Luke Powell’s mind as the spark for his postseason.

The Capistrano Valley Christian golfer and his longtime coach Bobby Nickell lingered to watch You Seong Choi of Anaheim Discovery Christian celebrate winning the Academy League individual title at San Juan Hills Golf Club.

The moment stung for Powell, a senior who had never lost a league match. Yet, he welcomed the pain that day, all the way through the photographs snapped of Choi.

Only then did Powell have his final motivation for the playoffs.

In his next four tournaments, the UCLA signee shot a combined 25-under-par in a run capped by a victory at CIF State Championships.

“I attribute most of my success to this date (of May 3),” said Powell, the Orange County boys golfer of the year. “I knew (my season) didn’t end there.”

Six days after the league finals, Powell teed off at the CIF-SS Southern Individual Regional at Los Serranos Golf Club in Chino Hills. He shot a 7-under 67 to win the title by one stroke.

On May 18, he played the CIF individual finals at River Ridge Golf Course in Oxnard and shot a 5-under 67 to place third.

Powell returned to Los Serranos for the CIF-SCGA SoCal Regional. He carded a 6-under 68 at take third and advance to the state finals for the first time.

On May 31, Powell fired a 7-under 64 to capture the state title by two strokes at Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach. He recorded six birdies and an eagle as he missed matching the event record held by Rickie Fowler by one stroke.

“It was something I’ve always wanted,” Powell said of the state title.

Capistrano Valley Christian senior and UCLA signee Luke Powell, pictured right with Eagles coach Bobby Nickell, is The Register's Orange County boys golfer of the year for 2023. (Photo courtesy of Luke Powell)Capistrano Valley Christian senior and UCLA signee Luke Powell, pictured right with Eagles coach Bobby Nickell, is The Register’s Orange County boys golfer of the year for 2023. (Courtesy of Luke Powell)

Powell had plenty of support in his quest for the crown.

He credits his parents George and Denise, and Nickell, for being in his corner.

Powell said his father took him to a golf course for the first time at age 4. The early introduction led to Powell beginning his competitive career four years later.

Powell said Nickell, one of his coaches at CVC and the head professional at Monarch Beach Golf Links, helped him improve his short game.

And in the end, Powell’s wedges and putting, along with the ache of May 3, pushed him to the state title.

“Under pressure,” he said, “that’s when I play the best.”

COACH OF THE YEAR

Van Johnstone, Tesoro

Tesoro boys golf coach Van Johnstone motivates his players with short, positive messages that build confidence. He also teaches the importance of discipline and hard work. But most of all, he knows how to be resourceful.

In his 17th season at Tesoro, Johnstone constructed his roster this spring from various sources.

Tesoro's Van Johnstone, pictured far left with his team at the CIF State championships at Poppy Hills, is The Register's Orange County boys golf coach of the year for 2023. (Photo courtesy of Don Moos)Tesoro’s Van Johnstone, far left, with his players at the CIF State Championships at Poppy Hills, is The Register’s Orange County boys golf coach of the year for 2023. (Courtesy of Don Moos)

He counted on a surprising contributor who spent most of last season on the junior varsity. He trusted another player who once came from the football program, and found a first-year player with a surfing background.

And when it came to brothers Dylan and Ethan Block, the coach “strongly encouraged” them to commit to the postseason journey.

The Titans responded like never before.

Tesoro punctuated a dominant season by winning the CIF-SCGA SoCal Regional for the first time and went on to finish fifth at the state championships.

For his efforts, Johnstone is the Orange County boys golf coach of the year.

“They want to be great,” Johnstone said of his players. “These guys are all friends, and they all work hard.”

Tesoro shot a 9-under-par score of 361 to claim the SoCal title at Los Serranos Golf Club in Chino Hills on May 24.

The Titans had four players score under par, including Keegan Gicking, a JV player last season who recorded an albatross.

The team’s fifth and final scoring player was Will Moos, a first-year player who also surfs for Tesoro. Senior Nico Tucker, the team’s No. 6 player at the regional, came from the football team.

Johnstone made a strong pitch to the Blocks. The brothers missed the SoCal qualifier last season to support their father Michael playing at the PGA Championship, the coach said.

The boys didn’t witness their father’s run at the PGA Championships in May but helped Tesoro make one of its own.

FIRST TEAM

Luke Powell, Capistrano Valley Christian, Sr. (Player of the year)

Dylan Block, Tesoro, Sr.

Shot a 3-under-par 68 to tie for sixth at the state finals.

Zander Grant, Tesoro, Sr.

Grant tied for ninth with a 3-under-par 71 at the SoCal regional.

Stephen Luo, Anaheim Discovery Christian, Jr.

Luo tied for ninth at the CIF State finals with a 2-under-par-69.

Ryder Rasmussen, San Juan Hills, Fr.

Rasmussen shot an even-par 74 at the SoCal regional final.

Bradley Smolinski, San Juan Hills, Jr.

Shot a 1-under-par 73 at the SoCal regional.

SECOND TEAM

Ethan Block, Tesoro, So.

Davis Brown, Dana Hills, Sr.

You Seong Choi, Anaheim Discover Christian, Sr.

Nathan Sok, Crean Lutheran, Fr.

Charles Thurston, Pacifica Christian, Sr.

Shane Walker, Foothill, Sr.

Note: Postseason performance is the primary factor in the selection of the All-County boys golf team.

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