Ruiz said Ahn was so quiet during the first two seasons they played together, it was nearly impossible to get him to speak at all during matches.
But last summer, Ahn decided it was time for him to come out of his shell, and let his personality shine through. In doing so, Ahn has relaxed and is more even keeled on the course.
That in turn has allowed him to play the best golf of his career.
“Joe is enjoying golf and the camaraderie with his teammates a lot more this season,” said Camarillo head coach Bill Dowden. “Once people get to know him they see how pleasant he is and that he does indeed have the ability to smile.
“Joe’s game is more consistent this year. His course management has improved as he has gained tournament experience. He, Johnny, and Bryce are rotating in the top spot depending on their results.”
Ahn, 17, has been putting in a lot of extra time in an effort to improve his game, Much of the emphasis on been on his short game, an area he felt had let him down in the previous few seasons. His goals included trying to improve the accuracy of his approach shots and also get more consistent with his putter.
Haynes, who has known Ahn since they started playing together when they were 10, said it’s been pretty easy to see the positive changes in his friend’s game.
“His iron play is so much better,” Haynes said. “And his putting is also better, He’s improved everything you need to do to score. As a friend, it’s good to see it happen and to see how well he is playing.”
Ahn is leading the team in birdies made and his scores have been much more consistent than they have in the previous two seasons.
Ahn recently earned medalist honors at the Glendora Invitational where he was the only player to post an under par round, firing a 1-under 71 during a round that saw him make five birdies.
The junior said winning the tournament was a great boost to his confidence, showing him he had the talent to compete with top-flight players.
“I’ve been working hard on staying more calm and not letting bad holes bother me,” Ahn said. “My freshman year I had a little bit of a temper problem. I’d ask myself why can’t I do this or why can’t I beat Johnny (Ruiz).
“But I have calmed down now and I am trying to have more fun. Now when I am not playing well, I talk to myself and tell myself not to worry, that I have more holes to play and there is time to recover. I’m doing a better job of staying relaxed and grinding through rounds.”
Ahn first picked up a golf club at the tender age of three, but the former Oxnard resident didn’t really get serious about the game until he was 10, He took his first lessons at River Ridge Golf Course and also started practicing and playing a lot more. His father Daniel is also a golfer, so the father and son spent many a day at the golf course playing and practicing.
It wasn’t long before people were talking about Ahn’s potential and hearing those discussions turned up the pressure he felt when he went out to play. “I talked to myself and tried to work harder, so I could live up to what people were saying about me and the potential I had and play in college.
“When I was younger, I told myself I had to play better because people were looking to me as being a good player. But I got over that, Now I play my own game and don’t worry about what people say.”
Ahn and his Camarillo teammates are excited about the possibilities for this season. A win over Newbury Park last Thursday upped the Scorpions record to 7-0. They are favorites to win the Pacific View League, which is always a goal, but Ahn said he and his teammates have their sights set on bigger prizes in 2011.
The last two seasons Camarillo has reached the CIF Team Divisional round but failed to advance. Ahn said they hope to change that this time around.
“We feel pretty confident,” Ahn said about the team’s chances in the postseason. “Our 4-5-6 players are working hard and they have been doing much better. If those guys continue to play well, and Bryce, and Johnny and I play like we have, we feel good about our chances.”
One of the things Ahn most enjoys about being part of his team is the friendly competition he is involved in with his teammates, especially Haynes and Ruiz. The three players push each other in practice and at matches and that has made them all better,
“We’re always competing and that’s something I really enjoy,” Ahn said. “Having Johnny and Bryce to compete with has made me a better player and I think it makes us a better team. It’s just another thing that makes it fun to play.”