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Cougar Golfers Run Gauntlet Of TVL Play, Tournaments
Sarkozy golf
Cougar golfer Nathan Sarkozy has been playing consistently so far this season, as the squad makes its way through the Trans-Valley League campaign. Dennis D. Cruz/The Times

The first couple of weeks of March have been tough ones for the Escalon High School golf boys. Weather conditions, course cancellations, and other problems made it so that the Cougar linksters needed to play in six matches over the past two weeks.

Everything considered, they did all right. The Purple and Gold finished match play with a record of 3-1 and finished well in two highly-ranked tournaments.

“It’s been a grind,” Coach Rusty Fachner noted, “but we’ve done a good job of hanging in there.”

During this stretch, no one has been more responsible for the Cougars’ success than the team’s No. 1 player, Zack Gardner.

Gardner shot a one-under par 71 to win the Oakdale Cup Tournament at Oakdale Golf & Country Club, and then backed up his performance with a 78 at the Yellowjacket Invitational. The 78 was good for third place in a star-studded field that included some of the top schools in Northern California.

“I can’t say enough about Zack’s play right now. He’s playing as well as any golfer we’ve had in the program over the past few years,” noted Fachner. “The best thing is that he’s succeeding against quality competition. It shows you what hard work and dedication can do.”

As a team, the Cougars took third at the Oakdale Tournament and ninth at the Yellowjacket. Other individual scores at the 18-hole event in Oakdale included Nathan Sarkozy at 88, Danny Bava with a 94, Brad DaDalt at 97, Brandon Levin with 105 and Nick Lattig with a 122. At the Yellowjacket, Sarkozy followed Gardner with a 96. DaDalt shot 99, Levin 102 and Lattig 109.

Escalon also had four TVL matches beginning with a tilt against the Riverbank Bruins at La Contenta GC. The Bruins did not compete with a full squad, giving the Cougars a forfeited victory. On the day, Gardner continued to play well, shooting 37. He was again followed by Sarkozy at 40. Bava and DaDalt shot identical 46’s, while Levin posted a 50, and Lattig a 51.

The Cougars followed their victory over Riverbank with a win against Mountain House at Old River GC. Gardner again led the way with a 40 while DaDalt was next in scoring with a 46. Sarkozy and Levin both had 47, and Lattig continued to improve by shooting a 48. Sophomore Jimmy Wentzall shot 51 in his first match as a varsity player.

“I was happy with a couple of things during the Mountain House match,” Fachner commented. “Nick Lattig showed great improvement in his game, Brandon Levin put together a solid round, and Jimmy Wentzall did a great job filling in for Danny Bava, who was injured. I liked the effort from different guys in the top six. I also really like the consistency I’m getting from Nathan Sarkozy.”

After the Mountain House win, Escalon travelled to Spring Creek CC, to take on Ripon in a big TVL match-up. Ripon walked away victorious with a 228-241 victory, and a share of first place in the league.

“We just weren’t ready to play. Whether it was nerves, fatigue, loss of focus, I’m not quite sure. I do know that we’re better than what we showed. It was a real team loss. We have to be better. My hope is we can get them when we play at Oakdale,” said Fachner.

Scoring for the Cougars began with Gardner at 40. He was followed by Sarkozy at 45 and Bava at 48. Levin and DaDalt came in at 55 and Lattig finished the day with a 62.

Finishing out the marathon of matches, the Cougars took on Modesto Christian at Modesto Municipal GC on Thursday. Escalon walked away with a 234-270 victory. It wasn’t the Cougars’ best effort, but Fachner was still pleased with the win.

“It wasn’t pretty, but with the grind we’ve been through, I’ll take it. We just really kind of hung in there today. I’m proud of my guys. They really bounced back well from the Ripon loss,” Fachner said.

On the day, Gardner posted a 41 for team honors. Sarkozy and DaDalt were behind Gardner with identical 47’s. Bava finished the day at 49. Levin shot 50, and Wentzall closed the scoring with a 52.

The Cougars will be at home at Oakdale for the first time in two weeks as they host Hughson on Wednesday, March 22 in yet another key TVL match. Then it’s on the road again as they travel to Diablo Grande to take on Hilmar.