Central Catholic High’s Chris Ebster, his heart nearly pounding out of his chest, exhaled long and slow as he envisioned his first struck shot at the CIF State Boys Golf Championship.
At that point, his game plan did not call for holing a mile’s worth of putts or celebrating later with teammates. He was reduced to essentials – stay upright and make contact.
“I was so nervous that I didn’t even eat this morning,” Ebster said. “I (exhaled) and it was, ‘OK, I can hit this shot.’ After the first four holes, I settled in.”
Ebster and his teammates, the first Stanislaus District boys team to reach State, identified three future goals after a Wednesday full of lessons learned:
1. Expand your comfort zone,
2. Force down some morning nourishment, and
3. Find a large net to corral those first-tee butterflies.
They must have felt like gorillas tugging at the stomachs of a young Central Catholic team devoid of seniors. Other than Ebster’s hard-working 2-over-par 73 – he’s one of three freshmen – the Raiders blinked in the harsh lights of the state’s most brightly lit golf stage.
They placed sixth out of six, an incredible feat given the fact only six teams in a field of 54 even got here. But after a shocking runner-up showing at NorCals, Central Catholic sought more glory. Finding that glory was Westlake of Thousand Oaks, which was nine strokes clear of the field.
Central Catholic finished at 41-over 396, 36 swings behind the winners. Give those gorillas a saliva test.
“They looked a little nervous and tentative. Some did a good job holding it together,” CC coach Dave Quintal said. “They climbed a mountain in terms of experience.”
San Gabriel CC, SoCal’s oldest club (1904), presented an old-school test with its deep bunkers hovering over sloping greens. The 6,648-yard par-71 played longer than its yardage and was all about golf – no spas, no bagpipes, no fancy clubhouse pretense.
Central Catholic walked into this pure challenge and, as a team, logged 6-over on its first hole – the par-4 10th – and 10-over on the first four. Matthew Robinson, the Raiders’ leader this season, was the exception. He started 2-under during that stretch but closed with bogeys on four of his last six en route to 76.
Brothers Nick and Mac O’Brien (79 and 82, respectively), Michael Kelley and Trey Wesenberg (each with 86) all labored quickly. So did Ebster with bogeys on his first two holes.
Chris Ebster of Central Catholic takes deep breath, stripes his opening shop at State. pic.twitter.com/yeAONYDIfi— Ron Agostini (@ModBeeSports) June 4, 2014
But unlike his teammates, Ebster stabilized. He matched par on his final 16 holes, spiced by kick-in birdies after crisp knock-down wedges at the short par-4 first and sixth.
His recovery served as encouragement to a team that has the tools in place to return. The Raiders can’t worry about Westlake, which roped the field with three sophomores and a freshman.
Central Catholic charted a new path in 2014 and put down markers for 2015. Now, about that first tee...
“Didn’t have our best stuff going ... but that’s golf,” Robinson concluded. “We’ll have the same experience (for next year), and we all know exactly what it will take.”
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Nerves are busy, but Central Catholic's Trey Wesenberg opens with good drive at State. pic.twitter.com/Hg8eKknaOJ— Ron Agostini (@ModBeeSports) June 4, 2014
Mac O'Brien of Central Catholic hits opening tee shot long and straight at State. pic.twitter.com/yn4w3CRTgk— Ron Agostini (@ModBeeSports) June 4, 2014