Central Catholic golf looking ahead

06/11/2014 12:03 AM

06/11/2014 12:07 AM

Central Catholic couldn’t hide some mild disappointment last week after its sixth-place finish at the CIF Boys State Golf Championship.

Only six teams – three from the North and three from the South – along with individual qualifiers advanced to the elite stage at San Gabriel Country Club. The senior-less Raiders’ youth showed at times and they eventually trailed the field by seven strokes. Champion Westlake was 34 strokes better.

“We came in with a frame of mind to win State. That was our approach,” Central Catholic coach Dave Quintal said. “Disappointing? No. We saw the best teams and what it takes to play at that level. Our kids now have gone through it. They’ll never be as nervous as they were that day. Now it’s back to playing golf.”

The Raiders became the first Stanislaus District boys team to advance to State. They won five tournaments, placed third at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters and second at Northern California. Step by step, they equaled or surpassed their high expectations and broke new ground.

Remember, Central Catholic matched up against everyone – big schools and small, public and private – at Masters and beyond. The Raiders were NorCal’s No. 2 team – period. Some observers believe their accomplishment was comparable to CC’s back-to-back state small-schools football titles.

For the golfers, the major hurdle was Masters, where the team slumped a year ago.

“We really wanted Masters for redemption,” Quintal said. “We knew we had the team and the numbers. Our team started to bond at mid-season and they started believing in themselves.”

The most encouraging thing about the Raiders, of course, is their future. The entire lineup returns – Matt Robinson, brothers Nick and Mac O’Brien, Trey Wesenberg, Chris Ebster and Michael Kelley, plus reserves Austin Salazar and Jonas Purnell who pushed the starters all season. Ebster, Kelley and Nick O’Brien just completed their freshman seasons.

The bar will be raised to a new level for them in 2015. A return trip to State makes for a demanding measuring stick. Beating golf powers such as Robert Louis Stevenson, Archbishop Mitty, Jesuit, Del Oro, Granite Bay and the rest remains as it was this year – a very difficult feat.

Toward that end, Quintal promises to beef up CC’s schedule. Its annual Preview tournament at Del Rio CC will feature some of the section’s top teams.

“Nothing is a given. Next year is a clean slate,” Quintal said. “Our backing with the school, family and alumni is incredible. We start every season with a match against the alumni, and it’s been really close the last two years. Late in the season, the alums were calling me and texting the kids. I think we can do it again next year if we just take it step by step.”

CREEKSIDE HONOR – Creekside has become the 72nd course in California and the 898th in the world to achieve designation as a certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary. Superintendent Michael Scully led the effort with support from ValleyCrest (the contractor that maintains the city courses), Kemper Sports, The First Tee of Central Valley, the Stanislaus Audubon Society, Professor Dale Pollard of Modesto Junior College, Modesto Garden Club and the City of Modesto.

“Creekside has shown a strong commitment to its environmental program,” said Doug Bechtel, executive director at Audubon International. “They are to be commended for their efforts to provide a sanctuary for wildlife on the golf course property.”

Creekside opened for play in 1991.

HOLE-IN-ONE – John Page, Riverbank, 117-yard 15th at Jack Tone Golf, Ripon, pitching wedge.

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