Vikings’ state golf hopes rest with freshman Craig
Not even Kenny Craig thought he’d be the one representing South Tahoe High at this week’s state 4A golf championships in Dayton.
Only a freshman, Craig felt there were teammates, including last year’s state qualifier Sean Fannan, more prepared to take the next step. But a funny thing happened late in the season: Craig got hot.
“I never thought I’d make it to state, but at the end of the season I was playing and it just came at Red Hawk,” Craig said.
Oh, yes, Red Hawk Golf Course. Craig is probably trying to convince his parents to move near the 18-hole Sparks course.
A day before the zone tournament, Craig fired a season-best 3-over-par 75. Feeling a bit more pressure and playing into a noticeable breeze the next day, Craig still shot a respectable 80.
“He’s used to playing under pressure when the chips are down,” said STHS coach Mike Patterson. “He has three years of that, and I think it really helped him at zone. Some of the kids were really nervous at zone and he handled it really well.”
His team finished a disappointing seventh out of eight teams at zone, but the 8-over-par score sent Craig where only one Viking male before him had gone – the state tournament.
“I was playing well that whole week,” Craig said. “I was just hoping I’d play well the next day during the tournament.”
By playing junior golf while he was in the seventh and eighth grades, Craig entered high school golf with a bit more tournament savvy than the typical freshman.
“I remember my first tournament, my scores were pretty high,” Craig said. “I’m getting used to it now where it feels like a regular round instead of a tournament.”
Even though Craig didn’t earn a start in STHS’s first conference tournament of the season, he rose to 36-best player overall in the league by season’s end. His 80 at zone left him only six shots behind Galena’s Bryson Young, who won all seven conference events, including zone.
“He’s got a really good short game,” Patterson said. “He’s one of our top two putters, he’s number one out of the sand and he’s actually No. 1 getting the ball up and down for par.”
The 15-year-old Craig hasn’t played Dayton Valley Country Club, the site of state today and Thursday, but he walked it last Friday. Players aren’t allowed to play the state venue a week before the championship tournament.
“I looked at the course and made some notes and stuff,” said Craig, who tees off at 11:36 a.m. today for the first round.
Patterson likes his freshman’s chances, especially after losing to his pupil by one shot, 38-37, during a nine-hole match Tuesday at Lake Tahoe Golf Course.
“He definitely struck the ball well today. I think he’ll do well at Dayton,” Patterson said.
Often the wind whips across Dayton Valley, turning the course into a monster for the inexperienced wind player.
“I’ve been practicing this whole year at Sierra Nevada and it’s been windy there, so I feel pretty comfortable in the wind,” Craig said. “I just go down a few clubs and hit the ball nice and low so the wind doesn’t affect my shots that much.”
It’s a game plan that ordinary freshmen don’t have in their bags.
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