STHS golfers dealing with winter rules
What a difference a monotonous 30-mile drive makes for the South Tahoe High golf team.
If the Vikings were confined to practice in the Tahoe Basin for the upcoming season, they’d have to make their rounds in snowshoes and use plastic balls at Lake Tahoe Golf Course.
But thanks to an understanding and compassionate Genoa Lakes and Sierra Nevada Golf Club, the Vikings are able to play daily in the valley to get ready for their season opener Friday.
“Before Sierra Nevada opened, there were three schools practicing at Genoa,” said South Tahoe head coach Mike Patterson. “It was great of (Genoa head pro) Randy (Fox) to do that for all of us. Last year, we decided to drive a few extra miles and take some of the pressure off Genoa.”
Still, the excursions into the valley after school cut into the Vikings’ preparation and expand their commitment to golf.
“A 2-hour practice becomes a 5-hour practice with travel time,” said Vikings senior James Peterson. “It’s definitely a long day, but it’s worth it. At Lake Tahoe we have time to practice and to play. Down here, it’s either practice or try to play before it gets dark.”
When the weather doesn’t cooperate in the valley, Vikings coach Patterson turns his auto shop at STHS into a chip-and-putt.
“Usually if we don’t go to the course, we’ll do something at the school,” Patterson said. “We’ll hit balls in the shop, but sometimes we’ll spend a couple hours going over rules or mental parts of the game.”
These drawbacks haven’t dampened the enthusiasm for the approaching season. Twenty-eight players showed up for tryouts on Feb. 28 and March 1, necessitating a 16-man cut to the Vikings’ present 12-man roster.
“We definitely want to qualify for zone as a team, and to do that, we have to be in the top eight,” said Patterson, who receives coaching assistance from Steve Madison, a local player with a 4 handicap. “That’s no easy accomplishment, but I think we have the talent to do it.”
While the team is young – there are only two seniors and three juniors – South Tahoe’s top four players know Kingsbury Grade better than some snowplow drivers. Seniors Peterson and Kipp Gstettenbauer are in the midst of their fourth year in the program, and juniors Patrick Kelly and Patrick Curtis give South Tahoe experience through their fourth man.
“It’s an extremely young team, but hopefully we can make zone, because we’ve never done that before,” Peterson said. “Making zone is our first goal, and from there we’ll take it as it goes and maybe get some players into state for the first time.”
Curtis was the Vikings’ lone zone qualifier last spring – a feat that left Patterson disappointed.
“That’s the fewest we’ve ever sent to zone,” Patterson said of his sixth-year program. “I know Patrick played a lot this summer and worked on his game, and he should be our top guy. But we definitely have some other guys who have a chance to play No. 1 for us.”
Sophomore Sean Fannan, who played every match last year as a rookie, is being counted on to hold down the team’s fifth spot. Fannan’s ability to handle the longer yardages as a freshman left an impression on his coach.
“We always play from the championship tees, and a lot of times the younger kids have trouble with the yardages,” Patterson said. “A lot of times, we’re playing par 3s that are 220-230 yards long. It’d definitely rare for a freshman to be in our top six.”
The sixth spot is up for grabs, with one junior, three sophomores and three freshmen vying for the sixth position.
Patterson plans to allow the 16 cut players who were cut to rejoin the team once Lake Tahoe Golf Course opens in April.
Coach: Mike Patterson
Players to watch: Seniors James Peterson and Kipp Gstettenbauer, juniors Patrick Curtis (1999 zone qualifier) and Patrick Kelly; and sophomore Sean Fannan
Opening match: Vs. Whittell, Douglas, Manogue, Incline and Carson on Friday at 11 a.m. at Genoa Lakes
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