Fourth straight title for YHS golf team

Yosemite High golfer Spencer Uzzell picked-up his first golf club at the age of eight, with some chipping instructions in the family yard from his father Greg. Within a year, he played his first nine holes at Sierra Meadows Golf Course in Ahwahnee.

“My dad let me “T” the ball up on every long shot on the course, so I learned to make good contact with the ball from the very beginning,” Uzzell said.

On April 29, the Yosemite High School sophomore was again making good contact with the ball, and was crowned the North Sequoia League Most Valuable Player after leading the Badger boys golf team to its fourth straight NSL title at Lemoore Municipal Golf Course. Yosemite was undefeated in league tournament play this season and the NSL championship title is the seventh in the past eight seasons.

Uzzell carded a 78 to tie for medalist honors with Jake Sweeney of Liberty High. As a freshman, Uzzell placed fourth at the league tournament last year shooting an 81.

Uzzell, by winning at the league tournament last week, was able to hold off teammate Emerick for league MVP honors, edging in points that are accumulated all season in league tournaments. Going into the final tournament, Uzzell led senior Emerick Ryan by just two points. He finished league play with 276 points to Emerick’s 272.

Yosemite’s Connor Wallace and Emerick, along with Chowchilla’s John Cook, shot 81 for a three-way tie for third place in the league tournament. Sierra’s Chad Fisher shot an 82, and Daniel Roberts of Kerman had an 84 which qualified them for the Area Tournament. As league champs, the entire six-man Yosemite team, and the four players who broke 85, all qualify for the Area Tournament.

Ryan Lopez scored an 88, and fellow Badger Tyler Wallace shot 89. The Badger’s total for all five teammates was 417. Liberty came in second, 46 strokes behind Yosemite, with a team score of 463.

“I’m proud of our team this year,” Uzzell said after the tournament. “After loosing five seniors to graduation last year, many people did not know what to expect from our team this season. Although we were a young team with just one senior, we were a very motivated team. Everyone on the team is very self-driven and is excited about our potential in the coming years.”

Even the team’s biggest supporter, Coach Reg Turner, expected a little drop from last year, but Uzzell and Emerick picked-up the slack for Kevin Lauterbach who was the 2014 Valley Player of the Year,” Turner said. “We also had two freshman, Connor Wallace, and Ryan Lopez step in like old veterans. The interesting thing about this team is their over-all average scoring is not as good as last year, but in league play, when it really counts, they beat last year’s point total average of 185 to 182.”

Uzzell said the summer before his freshman year, he made a big decision to play golf instead of baseball.

“I made the decision to pursue golf because I really love the game, and I felt I had more potential and opportunities playing golf,” Uzzell said. “I started playing competitively about 22 months ago entering several Junior Tour of Northern California sanctioned tournaments.

He said it took a little time to get used to the pressure of playing against more advanced players, but by the end of summer his game and confidence were improving.

Uzzell said he worked very hard last summer and throughout this season to improve his game, especially his short game (chipping and putting). But even more than his mechanics, he feels what improved the most was his mental approach to the game.

“Staying focused and not getting upset with bad shots on the course played a big role in my improvement,” he said. “It’s an awesome feeling to see all the hard work pay off.”

Although the Badgers were edged by three strokes by Fresno Christian Tuesday at the Area Tournament, Uzzel’s ‘79 qualified him for the CIF Center Section Individual Championships May 19 in Porterville.