After dabbling a bit on the links when he was younger, Blake Gaarenstroom began to get serious about his golf game.

“I started playing golf seriously when I was 12 years old,” says Gaarenstroom. “I played with my older brothers on the course for the first time, and I just really fell in love with the sport.”

Having recently graduated from JSerra Catholic High School, Gaarenstroom appreciates how the game gives him a place to clear his mind and adjust his focus.

“One thing I love about golf is that you could be having a really stressful or really bad day at school…but when you’re on the golf course, your mind just focuses in on the golf and the beauty and nature around you,” says Gaarenstroom.

Gaarenstroom served as co-captain in his final year for JSerra, and as the only senior on a young but talented team, the four-year varsity player took the opportunity to lead his younger teammates.

“As a captain, [I] like to inspire people to never give up,” says Gaarenstroom. “You could be having a bad game…but with the snap of a finger, you could be back in it.”

The 18 year old helped to lead JSerra to a number of milestones for the program this past season, including 13 wins overall, seven wins in Trinity League play, and a tie for second place in the Trinity League, all bests for the varsity Lions.

“Blake was a huge help in leading our young team this year,” says JSerra head golf coach, Brian Schippel. “His leadership and his ability on the golf course helped him earn the trust of the younger guys. Watching him grow and mature into the young man he is today makes me proud to have been his coach.”

Away from the course, Gaarenstroom has a heart for serving others and volunteers his time at the Food Pantry, a ministry of Coast Hills Church. The Laguna Hills resident also works as a counselor for Special Camp for Special Kids, a day camp program for youth with disabilities.

With life’s many distractions, staying committed to the game has been one of Gaarenstroom’s biggest challenges. But the lessons he’s learned have strengthened his focus and continue to be of benefit.

“One lesson that golf has taught me is to be more mature,” says Gaarenstroom of playing alongside adults. “I never realized how much more respect I’d gain from them. It’s helped a lot.”

Gaarenstroom plans to major in business and minor in biology on his way to pursuing medical sales. While likely to continue playing golf recreationally, Gaarenstroom is grateful for the chance he had to represent his school through sports.

“Faith is such an important part,” says Gaarenstroom of athletics at JSerra. “It comes before golf, and I’m glad that no matter the outcome of the match…that we always are able to put God first.”