Completing their regular season matches winning two of three, the Escalon High School boys golf team fell just short of their title aspirations. The Cougars took care of both Hilmar and Hughson, but could not get the win in their match against Ripon. It would take a miraculous set of circumstances at the end of the year League Tournament on Monday for them to take home a share of the title. The tourney was completed following sports press time for The Times.
The Cougars would need to win the tournament, and Ripon would need to finish third for Escalon to reign as TVL champs.
“As much as I never believe in giving up, I really have a difficult time seeing that happening,” Coach Rusty Fachner said of the final tournament. “Ripon is undefeated at this time. It would take a monumental collapse for them to lose it and for us to win it.”
The Purple and Gold began the past week playing in the Bulldog Invitational at Tracy Country Club on April 24. Difficult course conditions and winds up to 40 mph made the tournament extremely challenging.
“We basically played in the tournament for experience,” Fachner noted. “With the conditions the way they were, I’m not sure how much we really gained. It was really tough on the guys.”
Zack Gardner led the Cougars shooting an 88 for 18 holes. He was followed by Nathan Sarkozy’s 94 and Danny Bava’s 98. Brandon Levin shot 104, while Matt Spurgeon and Jimmy Wentzell both checked in at 110.
Tuesday, Escalon had a three-way match with both Hughson and Hilmar at Oakdale Golf and Country Club. The three-way match was necessitated due to earlier rainouts. In addition to having to compete against two teams in one match, the Cougars were down three players from their regular top six players.
“Prior commitments, illness, and roster changes made it so that we needed to call up some JV players to fill in,” Fachner stated. “They really stepped and played well. Jimmy Wentzell and Matt Spurgeon were huge for us. Add Brandon Levin’s best clutch effort of the season, and we were able to pull off the upset. Huge win because, at the time, it kept us in the championship hunt.”
Facing Hughson’s top players, the Cougars were able to shape a 229-234 win against the Huskies. Escalon also took care of Hilmar, defeating them due to a disqualification. On the day, Gardner again led the charges with a 37. Sarkozy chipped in a 44 and Levin added his 46. Spurgeon and Wentzell came in at 51 and Parker Franklin finished the day with a 66.
On Wednesday, the Cougar linksters had a chance to exact some revenge for an earlier loss to Ripon, but it wasn’t to be. Ripon walked away victorious 227-233.
“We had our chance, but didn’t play well enough,” said Fachner. “We simply needed to play smarter, and better, and we didn’t do that. We needed to play better under pressure, but that’s the difference between the experience Ripon has with its senior-laden squad, and the inexperience that we have playing mostly sophomores. Hopefully we will take this experience and build on it.”
Gardner was once again the leader shooting a team-low 38. Sarkozy also played well, carding a 41. Bava added a 49 and Levin gave the Cougars a 50. Wentzell shot a 55 and Spurgeon struggled to a 62.
With the wins against Hughson and Hilmar, Escalon earned a spot in the Division V Section Playoffs. After playing in the League Tournament on Monday at Micke Grove Golf Links, the Purple and Gold will travel to Haggin Oaks in Sacramento for the Sections.
“It will be a great experience for our young guys,” Fachner concluded. “And I’m hoping that we have a layer or two that will advance to the Masters Tournament the following week. We earned the right to be there, and it should be fun.”