Christopher Giardina doesn’t have much free time this summer.
Busy breaks are nothing new for the El Capitan High School student. Giardina has participated in Junior Golf Association of Northern California tournaments since he started competitive golf two years ago, but after getting a taste of his potential in his freshman season, the Gauchos star has stepped up his schedule.
“I was kind of excited to start high school golf, and I brought that into the season,” Giardina said. “It was a little bit different than playing in the JGANC tournaments, and it took a little while to adjust to.
“My dad’s been a member of the (Merced Golf and Country Club) since I’ve been born, so I’ve basically been out on the course since I could walk. I was pretty confident coming in because of that experience, but I was definitely a little surprised how well the season went.”
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Giardina placed second in the Western Athletic Conference Tournament, two strokes behind league champ Gary Condit of Ceres. Giardina rode the momentum of that performance into the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Tournament at The Reserve at Spanos Park in Stockton, where he turned in a solid 84 to help secure his place as the Sun-Star Boys Golfer of the Year.
“I wasn’t really surprised that he qualified for Masters as a freshman,” El Capitan coach Bobby Johnson said. “Has a lot of talent, and when you match that up with his work ethic, it’s a formula for success. He’s out on the course almost every day, not just seeing how far he can hit it but working on all aspects of his game.
“He has a lot of potential, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s advancing to at least NorCals by the end of his high school career.”
For now, Giardina is content to just get better.
He did just that throughout the regular season, slowly but surely whittling his scores down. Giardina said he felt the turning point came during the WAC Mid-Season Tournament. He shot an 88 at Pheasant Run in Chowchilla, good for fifth.
“That was probably the first time I really felt like I could compete at this level,” Giardina said. “I knew it wasn’t my best round, but I was still right there. By the time the last league tournament came around, my game was at a high point.”
Giardina cut seven strokes off his score from a few weeks earlier, securing his place in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV Tournament. He followed with an 85 at the Division IV Tournament, winning a one-hole playoff to earn the third and final individual berth to the Masters.
The scary thing for Giardina’s opponents is if he just finds a little more consistency on the greens, he’ll be even better as the Gauchos move to the Central California Conference this school year.
“My putting is definitely the weakest part of my game right now,” Giardina said. “My short game is probably my strength, so I just try to chip the ball into the hole every chance I get. A good part of my summer is definitely going to be used to work on putting.
“The level of play at Masters was unbelievable, but it also showed me where I can go. I’m excited for all the tournaments I’m in this summer and to see how much better I can get before next season.”
Golf All-Area Team
Alec Barajas, Buhach Colony
Jimmy Georgiou, Los Banos
Gabriel Rodriguez, Atwater
Justin Pasley, Buhach Colony
Jake Leonardo, El Capitan
Shane Watts, Buhach Colony
Josh Moore, Mariposa
Logan Koster, Buhach Colony
Mark Maddox, Mariposa
Coach of the Year: Danny Ellis, Mariposa