The Yosemite High School golf team is off to a good start on its way to its sixth consecutive North Sequoia League Championship, winning the first three league mini tournaments of the season.
The Badgers, under the leadership of Coach Reg Turner, kicked off the season March 8 in Chowchilla, edging Kerman and Liberty by 12 and 20 points, respectively.
Medalist Spencer Uzzell, a senior and two-time NSL MVP, shot even par to record 45 points in the modified stableford format used in high school golf, which awards seven points for a birdie, five for par, three for a bogey, two for double bogey, and one for a triple bogey.
Uzzell trailed Jake Sweeney of Liberty and Daniel Roberts from Kerman most of the round, but birdied the eighth hole to draw even with Roberts while Sweeney had a triple bogey. Uzzell then parred the final hole to win as Roberts bogeyed the hole.
Jack Wright of Chowchilla came in fourth and Badger junior Michael Stieler tied Roger Alvarez of Washington Union for fifth.
YHS Sophomore Dylan Allan came in 10th. Yosemite finished with 144 points, winning over Kerman (132) and Liberty (124). Chowchilla earned 120 point, Washington Union 54, and Dos Palos was disqualified with only four players. Sierra High did not enter the tournament.
Playing as No. 3 on the team, Allen has moved up from the No. 6 spot he held as a freshman. He’s working hard on his game after being a member of the NSL JV basketball championship team.
His chipping and putting have improved from last year and his goal is to finish the season as one of the top five players in league.
Second win at Madera
On March 15, YHS scored 170 points, 22 points ahead of second place Liberty (148) to secure a league match victory at Madera Muncipal Golf Course.
Stieler jumped from fifth place at the Chowchilla match to lead all players with a 38 and 42 points in Madera. Uzzell came in second shooting a 39 with 39 points. Yosemite’s Allen tied Liberty’s Sweeney for third with a 40 and 37 points.
Yosemite freshman Koa Estela scored 28 points to finish 13th and fellow freshman Josh Barba placed 17th out of 35 players, scoring 24 points for the team.
Steve Kurz, the sixth member of the travel squad, scored 21 points which put him in 21st place. The best five scores for each team are counted for the competition, although all scores go toward individual MVP points.
Repeat win at Dragonfly
On March 22 the team went to Dragonfly Country Club to win its third league tournament hosted by Liberty.
Uzzell was the only Yosemite golfer to shoot under 40 with a 38 and the Badgers won with an 11-point lead over Liberty, the second place team.
Uzzell looking for third MVP honor
Turner feels Uzzell, who has a two handicap, is the best player in the NSL and one of the top 15 high school golfers in the Central Valley.
“His short game is his strength,” Turner said. “He has the ability to read greens better than most high school golfers ... he is the best putter I’ve ever coached.”
Uzzell played in six highly competitive Northern California Golf Association youth tournaments over the summer to sharpen his game.
“I’m getting more and more confident with my chipping and putting,” Uzzell said during a practice round at River Creek Golf Course in Ahweahnee last week. “I’m practicing hard to be the league MVP again.”
“We hope Spencer does well in the CIF Central Section Tournament to qualify for the Southern California Regional Tournament at the end of the season,” Turner said.
Yosemite, fielding a young team with Uzzell the only senior, along with one junior, two sophomores, and two freshman has Turner somewhat surprised, but very pleased.
“I expected good things from Uzzell and Stieler who are quality players and can play with just about anyone in the Valley,” Turner said. “And I felt good about sophomores Allen and Kurz contributing to the team as returning varsity players, but I have been pleasantly surprised to have five freshmen sign up and Barba and Estela able to step in and be solid league performers,” Turner said.
Estela, who went to Oak Creek Intermediate School and was a member of the JV basketball team, first started playing golf with his grandfather six years ago. His goal is to finish the season in the top 15 in the NSL.
Barba, a product of North Fork Elementary School, says he’s been playing the game since he was old enough to pick up a club.
“I thought I would be at the low end of the totem pole when I fist joined the team, but I’ve been playing pretty well and I’m happy to currently be No. 4 on the team,” Barba said.
Turner said that along with Barba and Estela, Jackson Thearle shows great potential and senior Matt Roberts is also battling for that sixth travel position.
“We are also fortunate to have young players like freshman Johnny Alsup, Corey Carlson, junior Cameron Hart, and sophomore Cale Sweeney,” Turner said. “It’s nice to have so many lower classmen on the team and we are lucky to have such an exceptional group of players who have already established a positive climate, working together toward being better golfers. It is and will continue to be very exciting for me to see what these boys can achieve this year and beyond.”
On March 29, the Badgers hosted a league tournament at at River Creek Golf Course in Ahwahnee. Scores not available at press time.