Local golfers eliminated from title contention

Granite Bay and Roseville golfers reach Masters, but can't extend season
By: Steven Wilson,
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Monday’s Sac-Joaquin Section Boys Golf Masters Tournament, played at The Reserve at Spanos Park in Stockton, featured four local golfers, including three from Granite Bay. But despite a fairly strong start from each, none of the four could make the cut for next week’s NorCal tournament. 

Granite Bay’s Drake Mendenhall had a strong outing, but missed his own individual qualification by just two strokes, after he recorded a 73 on the day. His teammates, Nicko Craig (77) and Tim Sauer (78), weren’t too far behind, but both failed to move on. 

“The guys are disappointed, but I look at it as how much they’ve done for our program,” Granite Bay’s Athletic Director and golf coach Tim Healy admitted. “Those three guys really helped establish this as one of premier programs in the area.”

After helping lead Granite Bay to an undefeated mark in SFL play and posting a stellar regular season average, Mendenhall was a favorite to advance to next week’s NorCal championship. In fact, he was one-under with just two holes to play Monday, but the wind played into a tough approach on his last hole, a par-three, and he double-boogied to fall out of the running.

“The ball ended up on the side of a bunker, embedded in the sand,” Healy explained. “He just caught a bad break, but that’s golf.”

The conditions affected all of the golfers, but a few teams managed to post strong scores despite the weather. Davis Sr. and Oak Ridge tied for the team title with scores of 382, meaning the scores of each teams' sixth golfers were used to determine the winner. Davis' Matt Hill shot an 81, which was four strokes better than Oak Ridge’s Max Vandehventer, who tallied an 85. Jesuit was the third and final team to advance to NorCals with a 384.

Lodi's Justin Gums shot a 4-under-par 68 for individual medalist honors. Four other golfers shot even-par 72s and competed in a playoff to determine the final three berths to the NorCal championships. After two holes, the playoff winners moving on to NorCals were Matt Sutherland (Rio Americano), Kevin Huff (Vista del Lago) and Christian Guzman (Lathrop).

Mendenhall was nearly part of that group, but he’ll head into the offseason with the rest of his team.

“Obviously, all three of those guys mean a lot to me because I’ve watched them develop as students and players,” Healy said. “It’s one of the unique things about certain sports, having them for all four years and watching them change as people, and as players. These are just three really great young men, who will go off and be very successful people regardless of what they end up doing.”

Roseville’s Jake Littlejohn also competed at the tournament, but an injury late last week hurt his ability to advance as he finished even with Craig with a 77.

“I sprained my ankle the Friday before Masters, so I played on it but I didn’t really have my full swing,” Littlejohn admitted. “I had to hit a lot of 50-percent shots, and despite that, I thought I played well, but it wasn’t enough to move on.”

Littlejohn, who averaged a 75.5 per 18 holes in his senior season — with a season-low of 71 — was hoping to advance to next Monday's CIF Northern California Championships, which will be held on his home course in Roseville at the Sierra View Country Club. Instead, he’ll prep for graduation and get ready for college after concluding an illustrious career for the Tigers.