The blue banner will hang alone, at least for a while, at the Gregori High gym.
The team responsible for that flag, however, knows what it means.
“It’s huge. Awesome,” senior Christopher Ebster said. “No one talks about golf at our school. Golf is one of our best sports.”
No argument there. Gregori won the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I South Tournament on Monday and thus became the first team in the school’s seven-year history to bring home a section championship.
Ebster’s reaction said a lot. He pulled a 6-iron second shot out of bounds at Spring Creek Country Club’s par-5 17th, his next-to-last hole, and his 71 left him one stroke behind medalist Justin Gums of Lodi. Regardless, the Jaguars’ UNLV-bound star reveled in the team’s accomplishment.
“I’ve never been this excited after a round,” he said.
Gregori shot a 378, 16 strokes ahead of runner-up Lodi. The title was sugar-sweet for the Jaguars, who finished second behind Lodi the last two years at this tournament.
Gregori, the three-time reigning Modesto Metro Conference champion, will join Lodi and third-place Turlock at the Section Masters next Monday at The Reserve at Spanos Park.
378 Gregori’s winning score at Section D-I South
“This is big, but moving on from Masters will be bigger,” Gregori coach Bradd Stewart said. “We’ll go against all the Sacramento schools and the private schools next week.”
True enough, but the date for the section divisional was circled on the Gregori calendar. The Jaguars’ lineup is deeper than Lodi’s this season, and that was the difference.
Ebster, junior K.J. Dieker (74) and freshman Ricardo Diaz (76) all stood under-par during their back nine at Spring Creek. As it turned out, their late-round slump only shrank their healthy lead over the Flames. Michael Doll notched five birdies – he dodged a 9 at the difficult par-4 No. 9 –but the 79 by Ethan Hardy proved useful.
Six individuals also continued their season, and one of them was Downey senior Hunter Jones. He posted a season-best 78 – hitting the required Masters score on the number – despite a bogey, double bogey, triple bogey start. Jones, who missed Masters last year by one shot, anchored the sixth-place finish by Downey (448) in the eight-team field. Pars at the sixth and seventh, his final two holes, paid off.
“I feel lucky, honestly,” Jones said. “Somehow, I pulled it together after that start.”
Turlock (397), unbeaten the last two years in the Central California Conference, placed three strokes behind Lodi. Twenty-four strokes separated the Bulldogs from fourth-place Lincoln, however, thanks in part to a 77 by junior Preston Magina.
Magina, who shot a 73 at the CCCs last week at Pheasant Run, rallied late in the season.
I’ve never been this excited after a round.
“I started this year with an 83, so I tried to improve over my previous score each tournament,” Magina said. “I kept going lower and lower, and now I’m here.”
Spring Creek’s third hole was shortened to a driveable par-4 due to seepage from the nearby Stanislaus River. Ebster drove two par 4’s – the 252-yard third and the 325-yard 14th, the latter by cutting the corner and clearing the green-side bunker.
Also driving the third was Pitman senior Chandler Hendrick, who qualified for Masters with his 76. Hendrick, a lefty, merged all facets of his game to earn his first trip to Masters.
Merced senior Peter Kim (76) and Buhach Colony sophomore Justin Pasley (77) also qualified for next week.