As a freshman, Gavin Cohen finished in the top 20 at the Division II state golf championships last season.

He didn’t have any nerves before or during the tournament, just the desire to get back.

After spending the past few summers playing tournaments in Florida, Texas and Oregon as part of the Junior Golfers Association of Arizona and America Junior Golfers Association, the Catalina Foothills sophomore is feeling more confident than ever.

Cohen finished his summer with three straight top-three finishes.

“This game is all about confidence,” said Cohen, who shot an 8-over 152 and tied for 17th place at state last fall. “I was so lucky to play in so many of these golf tournaments that I’ve definitely been through my ups and downs.”

It’s more than just confidence; Foothills coach Julie Walters has noticed Cohen added some shots to his repertoire.

“If he finds himself in a tough situation, a shot goes awry in trees or out in the middle of the desert, he can handle it,” Walters said. “His creativity in his shot-making has really come along this season.”

Here are three things to know about Foothills’ rising star:

Intensity

Between the constant team “Snapchats,” improv singing on the golf course and wicked pterodactyl impression, Cohen comes off as a jokester.

Walters said that’s a big misconception.

“Others are dumbfounded by his intensity,” Walters said. “He’s having fun and joking around, yet he’s probably one of the most intense, competitive people I’ve ever met.”

He’s also got the killer instinct on the course.

“If he has a 15-footer for par, he’s going to go after it,” Walters said. “He’s not just going to lay up the putt and take bogey. He’s going for it; he wants the lower score.”

Young leader

Walters could recall time and time again when Cohen stepped up under tremendous pressure to sink long putts.

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In the new playoff format, there isn’t much room for slow starts or off-days, as each match is crucial.

After some early team struggles, Cohen found another way to contribute. He spoke up.

“He can be vocal at times, but he likes to lead by example,” Walters said. “He has this drive for our program to win. It’s contagious.”

A month into the season, Cohen is ranked fifth in Division II. He knows he has been consistently plugging away at mid-level scores but feels he’s “going to break through in the next couple of tournaments.”

Course management

Cohen played some holes too aggressively last season.

With more seasoning and tournament play, Cohen believes that experience and his maturation come into play with each of his swings.

“I don’t make a lot of mistakes,” Cohen said. “I try to keep it to the straightest and cleanest golf I can play daily. I know how to maneuver on the golf course; I think out every shot.”