The high school golf season kicks off with a major splash next week.
Central Catholic, still riding the momentum from its epic season last spring, again is the host team for the second annual Preview Tournament on Monday at Del Rio Country Club.
The field has been expanded to 19 teams (two from the Raiders), including 2014 Northern California champion Foothill of Pleasanton. Pleasant Valley of Chico and Archbishop Mitty of San Jose, which tied for sixth at NorCals last year, also accent the field.
Central Catholic should join the contenders. Most of the team is back from the talented squad that placed third at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters and second at NorCals and was one of six to advance to the CIF Championships at San Gabriel CC (the Raiders placed sixth).
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Sophomores Matthew Robinson, Michael Kelley and Nick O’Brien, and seniors Mac O’Brien and Trey Wesenberg give the Raiders another chance at success. Though sophomore Chris Ebster – a CC standout at Masters and state – transferred to Gregori, he should be replaced by promising freshman Tyler Ward.
Other teams on the way to Del Rio include Benicia, Davis of Yolo County, Del Oro, Lincoln of Stockton, Lodi, Oak Ridge, Placer, San Ramon, Shasta, St. Mary’s, Vacaville and Folsom.
The teams will be challenged by Del Rio’s Oak and Bluff nines, starting at 10 a.m.
National Scholars – Oakdale senior Mabel Wong and Pitman senior Beth Sommerville have been recognized in a big way through their work for The First Tee of Central Valley.
Both girls were named to the 2015 class of First Tee Scholars, a national distinction honoring participants who excel in academics, leadership, character development and chapter and community involvement. Scholarship opportunities and the taking part in national events also are possible through these honors.
For Sommerville – a four-year member of the Pitman team – her connection to the local First Tee chapter is hard to miss. She is the current president of the Modesto chapter’s junior council, and she spearheads fundraising activities to the scholarship fund.
“It has prepared me for life and provided opportunities I never would have had,” said Sommerville, who learned how to play golf through The First Tee when she was 8. “The (First Tee) coaches not only teach golf skills but life skills. Learning how to run a meeting was very important for me.”
Wong’s participation in The First Tee comes attached with an impressive résumé on the course. An exceptional player, she has earned a scholarship to USF.
“Golf has changed my life, and if I wasn’t a part of The First Tee, I would have never been introduced to the game of golf,” Wong said in a thank-you letter to the organization.
Wong became the latest local First Tee student to take part in the Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach last year.
Escalon Juniors – Lance Johnson, a veteran instructor in the area after his years as a three-time All-American at Cal State Stanislaus (1992-94), joins Charlie Floyd in starting the Escalon Junior Golf Association. The coed program, which starts next week, offers five five-week sessions featuring lessons on Tuesday and Saturday. The cost is $60 per session, and the target age groups are 12-older and 11-under.
“I want the kids out on the course playing, where you really learn the game,” Johnson said.
Call Johnson at 678-3093 or Floyd at 985-6574.
The Shag Bag – Not in the field at The Preview but one who should be fun to watch this season is Johansen’s Daniel Pena, the reigning Section Masters champion. His 66 last spring at The Reserve at Spanos Park smoked the field by three strokes. ... Hard to believe that James Hahn, who topped Dustin Johnson and Paul Casey in a playoff to win the Northern Trust Open at Riviera, became the first Cal golfer to win on the PGA Tour.
Holes-in-one – Gene Cash, Manteca, 103-yard 11th at Jack Tone Golf, Ripon, pitching wedge; Bob Wolfe, Livermore, 123-yard third at Jack Tone, 6-iron.