Coming into this spring, Cody Dazen had been on the first page of the leaderboard several times during his scholastic career.
The St. Augustine Prep junior golfer finished in an unofficial tie for second his freshman year at the Cape-Atlantic League Championships, and entering this season, had posted four top-five finishes at major high school tournaments.
However, no matter how well he played, the championship trophy always eluded him.
But that changed in a big way this year.
Dazen won both the CAL and the Carl Arena/Al Rifkin Memorial Tournament within three days of each other, shooting 1-under at each event. Combine that with his impressive 36.9 scoring average over the course of the season and Dazen ran away with his second-straight Daily Journal Golfer of the Year award.
“It’s breaking a barrier,” Dazen said of what it meant to win those two tourneys. “Maybe I was going to be a good high school player and not a great one.”
Dazen wouldn’t call himself a great golfer now, but admitted he’s much closer than he was before the season started.
That’s largely due to what he previously described as one of the “best weeks of my life.”
On April 30, Dazen once again found himself as a runner-up, taking second in the Peddie Tournament with an even-par 36 — the sixth top-five finish of his career and second of the season, he took second at the Galloway Challenge on April 10.
He couldn’t let that hold him down long though, as Dazen teed up at CALs the next day. The tourney didn’t start well for him — he double-bogeyed his second hole — but he rallied strong, making three birdies over his final four holes to post a 1-under 69 and capture the crown.
“I think it kind of raised my expectations, knowing I could play that well, and that I could have a different attitude, knowing I could win one and not just have a high finish,” he said.
That winning attitude shined through two days later at the prestigious Carl Arena tournament. Once again, Dazen opened on a sour note — bogeying his first hole. However, he made a late charge for the second straight tourney, carding three birdies over his last five holes to finish with a 1-under 71, two strokes clear of second place.
“I can’t really describe it,” Dazen said, recalling his magical week. “I can’t remember a whole lot about it. I came out in the zone that week and I was kind of feeling it.”
Prep coach Lenny Dolson remembers following Dazen for the final half-dozen holes of the CAL tourney, watching him make clutch shot after clutch shot.
“The pressure he puts on himself to win every tournament is pretty amazing,” he said. “Every time he steps on a course, I think he can win a tournament — whether it’s a state tournament or one of the other tournaments that we play around here.”
Dazen didn’t get to the top of the mountain again during the season — he tied for fourth in the Non-Public A South/Central sectional and tied for third in the NP-A state tourney — but the confidence he gained from his two victories has his sights set high next year.
“Winning states,” Dazen said. “That’s the ultimate goal before I leave high school.”
2012 Golf All-Stars
Mark Benevento, St. Augustine –The Prep freshman produced the area’s fourth-best scoring average (40.3), shooting a season-best 1-over 37 in the Hermits’ 161-171 victory over Ocean City at Greate Bay Country Club. Benevento also tied for 14th at CALs.
Eric Dargis, Vineland — The Fighting Clan sophomore capped off his season in style, shooting even-par in his second-to-last match of the year and posting a 2-under 34 in the season finale at Running Deer. Those two scores gave him the area’s second-best average with a 39.18. Dargis also tied four fourth at the CALs and placed 25th at the Carl Arena.
Cody Dazen, St. Augustine — The Daily Journal’s Golfer of the Year.
Cody Freese, Vineland — The Fighting Clan junior finished just a fraction behind Dargis for second in the area in best average, coming in with a 39.19. Freese had two under-par rounds this season, a 2-under 34 and 1-under 35 at Buena Vista Country Club on April 13 and 16, respectively. He also produced 11 sub-40 rounds.
Mike Raczenbek, Cumberland — The Colt freshman impressed in his first high school season, finishing fifth in the area with a 40.8 scoring average. In 21 matches, Raczenbek had more sub-40 rounds (six) than he had rounds over 42 (five). He also did very well in first his Carl Arena tourney, finishing in a tie for 49th, and tied for 16th in the Tri-County Conference Championships.
Dom Reale, St. Augustine — The Hermit senior finished with the area’s sixth-best scoring average (41.28) and produced solid finishes at both the Carl Arena tourney (T-34) and the Non-Public A South/Central sectional (seventh).
Honorable mention: Ricky Acosta, Vineland. Tyler Loteck, Millville. Shea Simons, Buena. Dustin Graiff, Tyler Martini, Devin Peterson, Sacred Heart. Angelo Kirchon, Pat Roberts, St. Augustine. Cody Ruppert, Delsea. Gage Kirstein, Schalick.