Coach Reg Turner and the Yosemite High boys golf team have won the North Sequoia League Championship for the seventh consecutive year – and it wasn’t even close.
On May 2, the Badgers, led by senior Michael Stieler, traveled to Madera Municipal Golf Course and turned in the team’s best 18-hole effort of the season.
Yosemite shot a 411, easily beating second-place Kerman by 38 strokes (449). Chowchilla came in third (462) followed by Liberty (498), Sierra (538) and Washington Union (552).
The relatively young Badgers team is made up of two seniors and four sophomores.
“We have been working very hard on our mental approach as well as our ball-striking and it is paying off,” Turner said.
And they’re not done:
“Our score of 411 puts the team in a credible position to win the Central Section D-II title,” Turner said.
Recent winners have shot 414 and 416 to win the section tournament.
Stieler NSL MVP
Stieler, 18, won the tournament with a 73, making him the medalist for the fifth time in seven league tournaments, easily giving him the honor of being named the NSL MVP by a comfortable margin.
Turner said Stieler’s season-long goal was to win the league MVP, “but he has his eyes set on qualifying for the Southern Regional.”
Typically, players qualify with scores below the 77-81 range. For all competitive rounds this year, Stieler has averaged 38 strokes for nine holes. In recent weeks, he has been scoring below that average for 18 holes with a 74 on April 25 and the 73 in the last NSL tournament.
“Michael feels the new irons he got earlier in the season are helping him play to his potential,” Turner said. “He says the fitted clubs and shafts seem to be perfect for him.”
But, Turner adds, it is more than new clubs.
“Michael has shown a maturity that has led to good practice habits as well as being the player on the team that everyone follows,’ Turner said. “Having your best player being your team leader is what coaches dream about.”
Stieler had an early introduction to golf, when hid dad, Michael (a scratch golfer), had him swinging clubs at the age of 6.
But the 6-foot-1, 160-pounder didn’t have a passion for the game right away.
“My freshman year, I wasn’t good enough to make the travel team,” Stieler said with a smile after a practice round at River Creek Golf Course in Ahwahnee. “But I really got into the game by sophomore year practicing at least 20 hours a week.”
He continued to work on his game and last season as a junior placed third on the NSL MVP list.
“I’m not hitting the ball that much better than last year, but the big improvement I’ve made over last season is due to my work on the mental part of the game, course management and playing smarter. It’s about thinking about every shot, thinking ahead and setting yourself up for the next shot.”
Steiler is not the only golfer in the family. His sister Kelsi (class of 2015) was also an outstanding player at YHS and is currently playing on the Fresno State women’s team.
His older brother Craig (2014 YHS alum), just graduated from Simpson University in Redding wher he played soccer for four years.
Although he did not receive a scholarship, Michael will be attending Sonoma State in the fall where he plans to walk-on with the NCAA Division II golf team.
Other notable YHS golfers
Yosemite’s Josh Barba shot an 80 and teammate Koa Estela had an 82 for fifth and sixth place. They also came in fifth and sixth for the season in league and received All-League honors with Stieler, Jerrod Weldon of Liberty, Jack Wright of Chowchilla, and Samuel Roberts of Kerman.
Weldon (74) finished second in the tournament as well as second in the MVP points. Roger Alvarez of Washington Union and Roberts each shot 79 to tie for third place.
Other Badger scores in the NSL Championship were Ryan Lopez (85) for eighth place, Jackson Thearle (91) 12th and Connor Flud (99) 17th out of 36 golfers.
The rest of the season schedule is the North Area Championship May 8 at Riverside Golf Course in Fresno and the Central Section tournament May 14 at Madera Country Club.