The Loop

Coaching change paying off for Yokoi, Long Beach State


Kevin Lim isn't used to picking team meals or deciding which uniforms his teammates will wear.

That's one of the prerogatives the Long Beach State senior golfer, along with fellow captain Kevin Roy, is enjoying with his third coach in four years.

"We're used to all our other coaches picking," Lim said. "They'd ask us, but the final decision was always on them. Now we can pick whatever we want. I think it's really cool. What I think of it is giving us the choices so we can be responsible for them."

It seems to be working. Long Beach State added its second title of the spring under newly-appointed coach Mickey Yokoi (right) at the Bandon Dunes Championship last weekend. The unranked 49ers came back from a seven-shot final-round deficit to tie Washington, the seventh-ranked team in the most recent Golf World/Nike Golf coaches' poll, to share the team title.

Lim fired a tournament-best 66, his lowest score in college, to lead the team and finish second behind Washington All-American Chris Williams. Roy had three rounds of 71, and freshman Xander Schuaffle shot a final-round 67 to help the 49ers make up the deficit.

Yokoi takes no credit for his new team winning two of its three stroke-play events this spring (the other win coming at the Folino Invitational in Yokoi's first event with the 49ers).

It's a homecoming of sorts for Yokoi, a Los Angeles native who grew up playing courses in Long Beach. Previously Yokoi served as the associate men's head coach at Arizona State, where he coached such Sun Devil stand outs as Paul Casey,Chez Reavie and Alejandro Canizaras, as well as being the women's coach at ASU from 2001-02.

While he's still getting to know his new team, the UCLA alum who played college golf with__Corey Pavin__ and Steve Pate already moved them up into the No. 50 in Golfweek's collegiate rankings as they prepare to play at the upcoming Duck Invitational in Eugene, Ore.

"I didn't realize how competitive these guys are, and it's neat to see that come out," said Yokoi, who took over for Ryan Ressa during the winter break. "It's gratifying for me as the coach, but it's really Ryan. I inherited these players from him. It's nothing I did, at all. I'm just trying to help these guys along."

Needless to say, he's doing a good job. While Lim says there's pluses and minuses to each different coaching strategy, and he really enjoyed playing for Ressa and Bill Poutre (the coach from 2008 to 2010) before that, he's playing the best golf of his life. That it's happening during his senior year, that's all the more gratifying.

"This is the first time we've starting winning tournaments since I've been here," Lim said. "That means a lot to me and my teammates, and I think Mickey's been a big part of that."

As Lim and Roy were sitting waiting for their Communications class to start after returning from their trip to Oregon, they reflected on how crazy things have been during their college careers. But after three different coaches, they're enjoying the ride … and their new decision-making powers.

"These guys are all good players, I just don't think they're realizing how good they are yet," Yokoi said. "For us to get a chance to play two top-10 schools, that's huge. Now they can see how they match up, and that's boasted their confidence now making them realize that maybe they can play with these guys."

--Stephen Hennessey