Savannah Magallon’s 2013 knee injury has left her none the worse for wear in her sport. PHOTO BY ED PIPER
You look at a golfer out on the links, and you think all that is going on is selecting a club, setting up a shot and working on the short game, when what is really going on is moral support, a shoulder to cry on, the right coach at the right time.
Savannah Magallon, a junior at La Jolla Country Day School, was struggling. Mom was facing surgery and radiation in her cancer treatment, and dad had experienced kidney failure. In the middle of all this, Savannah, trying to impress in a club softball tryout last summer, injured her knee on a bang-bang “do-or-die,” scooping a grounder up and making the throw on the run. At least that’s the way the play was supposed to unfold. Instead, the Torrey upperclassman, performing on a jutted field, set her left foot in a hole, and — twist! — wrenched her knee.
“I never went to a doctor. ‘Wait a week, and let’s see.’ That’s always my approach,” said Magallon, a hard-working, goal-oriented young woman who doesn’t savor time out when she’s working her life plan. She still doesn’t know what the diagnosis on the knee would have been. “I had a funny tan — funky — with a knee brace that summer. My friends put a photo on Facebook of just the knee.”
One thing led to another, and Savannah, the only child of parents who own their own business, switched sports, from softball to golf.
“The softball coach was really mad,” she related.
She picked up some golf clubs and played on Country Day coach Bill Cahoone’s team last fall without any prior practice or coaching. The knee wasn’t severely tested and didn’t present problems. “When it gets cold,” Magallon said, “it can get sore.”
Cahoone, Torrey golf coach for the past 20 years, was of course delighted to have her. “I told her when she was a sophomore that she had more of a chance to get a college scholarship in golf than softball,” he said.
When he left during a reporter’s interview of the student-athlete, the junior gave him a parting hug, an indication of the bond they have created. Thoroughly appropriate, very refreshing in this day of high-pressure prep athletics.
Where she has taken it, a year later, is nose-to-the-grindstone, dedicated practice and improvement, dropping what was a score in the 50s or 60s for nine holes two years ago, to a score in the upper 70s over 18 holes in practice, lower 80s in tournaments. Key relationships that helped get her emotionally through her tumultuous sophomore year, in view of her parents’ health challenges, were two mentors who took her under their wing at a crucial time.
“Bob Madsen is like a member of the family now,” said Cahoone’s most improved player on the squad.
Magallon explained that she hit a few balls for Madsen, head of instruction at Sycuan, and that he immediately took her on as a project. The other was Patrick Baynes, 21, who became her playing buddy. One worked with Savannah on specific skills; the other walked the course with her and provided the kind of moral support that only presence can give.
“Here was a person you’d only known six months,” she said of Baynes, yet the emotional support he was lending was equivalent to years of bonding. While she got through her sophomore year academically, she was working her plan on the golf course to increase her skills. The goal: a college scholarship.
“I really enjoy it. I can sit there and chip a ton of balls and enjoy it,” she said. “I like working toward a goal. I’ll pick a pin and (think), where am I going to leave the ball? I’ll make a 2-foot circle. I’ll make a 3-foot, 6-foot, 9-foot putt. It’s satisfying to reach your goal.”
She’s not one of the Torreys’ top players — yet. Nonetheless, Cahoone says, “I haven’t had someone improve that much in one season.” How does she do it? “She’s extra-committed, driven to excel and improve her game.”
“(Savannah)’s engaged in the game,” Cahoone continued, “to the point where everything is new to her.” She pays attention to every detail of her game in her headlong dash to progress.
Magallon is “very close” and fiercely loyal to her parents, Omar and Katherine. Asked why she is so motivated, she doesn’t hesitate to say, “Upbringing.”
“My parents,” she said, “always taught me to be strong. To not follow others. I make my own path.”
Looking ahead to two years from now, she’d like to go to San Diego State University, her parents’ alma mater, study business and marketing, and play golf on a full-ride if they would take her. This is the school “I always told my parents I would never go to,” she laughed. But she would like to stay close to home, to keep a watchful eye on her parents’ health situations, though she said both are doing well now. She also said SDSU has a strong undergraduate business program.