Optimism was in short supply as the Buhach Colony boys golf team made its way off Stockton’s Elkhorn Golf Club greens on May 5.
What started as a solid outing at the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1 South tournament began unraveling on the back nine.
As the Thunder players began to realize hope for individual advancement was likely gone, the group began focusing on grinding it out for the team.
Grind they did, just earning a spot for today’s Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Tournament at The Reserve at Spanos Park in Stockton.
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It was a trying experience.
“I know personally, I played really bad for how I’d been doing,” junior Emie Ochoa said. “I think the low point for me was a par 4. I hit my second shot into a tree and it stuck. I had to take a drop.
“I just had my head in my hands. It was pretty bad, but I had (coach Rich) Cometta in the back of my head. Just find a way to start limiting strokes for the team.”
Ochoa wasn’t the only one forced to take that approach. Cometta’s squad was just concerned with limiting the damage as none of the Thunder shot better than 84 on the afternoon. The young group exited the course lamenting what might have been.
That’s when the scores started coming in.
Buhach Colony shot a 436, five shots off of the pace for a section title and good for third. The finish shocked the Thunder.
“Everybody was pretty down after a tough afternoon, but I told them to look at the scores as they were coming in,” Cometta said. “The kids were shocked. I was shocked. There were a lot of good teams out on the course. And we know we left plenty of shots out on the course. We save save a few more pars here and there, and we come home with a blue banner.
“We came into this season knowing we had a good squad and really focused on knocking Turlock off its perch in the CCC. I think we were so focused on that we may have pressed a little bit. The last couple weeks we got back to just having fun out there, and you can see the results.”
Cometta’s squad, comprised of four juniors and two sophomores, is doing its best to take in the whole experience. Brandon Gordian serves as the team’s emotional leader, often giving the pre-match pep talks. Colton Freitas has been the on-course leader, earning all-Central California Conference honors the last three years. Alec Barajas has been the rock, turning in solid scores all season. Logan Koster and Shane Watts are the sophomores that are just beginning to realize their own potential. Ochoa is the up-and-comer, becoming the team’s consistent No. 1 this season.
The group enters the Masters with tempered expectations. Buhach Colony last reached the tournament in 2007, finishing 13th out of 14 teams.
“We’re certainly not taking anything for granted (today), but with the whole team coming back next year, we know the potential is there for something special next season,” Cometta said. “Hopefully that takes some of the pressure off and let’s the guys go out and enjoy the experience.
“We went and shot the course, and even though the wind is always blowing through there, the kids had a good round. We have the physical ability to have a great day, but what we’re still working on is staying mentally tough.
“At the end of the day, you play the course and not the guys you’re with. We’re going to be going up against some elite players. If we can get past that and just worry about our games, it should be fine.”