Beyer's Drake keeps his focus, claims MMC golf crown

Drake Ortega's timing was perfect Monday, as the Beyer High junior produced his top round with everyone looking on at Creekside Golf Course.

"My driving wasn't great today, but I used my short game to keep my scores low," Ortega said. "I was consistent, staying out of trouble and not worrying about anyone else."

That last bit wasn't as easy as it sounds, since Ortega was in the same group with two-time Modesto Metro Conference MVP -- and tournament favorite -- Daniel Covrig.

While Covrig struggled on the back nine holes, Ortega was masterful through all 18 and fired a 2-under 70 to run away with the MMC crown.

Johansen's Covrig was second at 77, the only other player to break 80. Johansen won the team title with a 403, after going 14-1 in the conference.

The Vikings and Beyer will be in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I Tournament, Monday at Stockton's Brookside Country Club. The MMC is sending six individuals, too.

Covrig and Ortega were the top contenders going into the round, and adding to the suspense was that the two would be watching each other play.

Beginning on the back nine on a dry, calm course, Ortega displayed more accuracy approaching the hole and more precision on close-in putts.

Covrig had an opportunity to pick up some strokes while the match was still close, but misfired on a short putt for an eagle and settled for a par.

"I pulled it, simple as that," said Covrig, who reached the Northern California Tournament last spring and is going to UC Davis in the fall on a golf scholarship. "I pushed a second one, then tapped in."

Ortega, meanwhile, continually was putting himself in a position to enjoy success. His drives, while not memorable, kept him out of rough spots. Once he neared the green, Ortega's incomparable accuracy meant a lot of short putts.

"I wanted to consistently be around the greens," he said. "I spend a lot of time working on chips and putts at the driving range, so I was pretty confident when I came in close."

Ortega's 1-under 35 on the back nine was four ahead of Covrig, and it was enough to make Covrig adjust his game. They started the day on the 12th hole, finishing on No. 11.

"I began doing some things differently out there because Drake was playing so well," said Covrig, the MVP for the second year in a row after averaging 1.2 strokes over par in 15 regular-season matches.

Ortega knew that he needed to outplay Covrig in the short game, because Covrig typically has a longer driver. Ortega can put some muscle behind his tee shots, but his 5-foot-7, 120-pound frame can't match Covrig over long distances.

"It's the best round that I've played, that's for sure," Ortega said. "I tried not to get too excited, but being in the same group as Daniel, I could see that I was pulling ahead of him.

"I was focused on my shots, what I needed to do. I wasn't changing anything based on what I saw him do. "

Ortega had birdies on the par-3 No. 8 and par-4 No. 10, and parred the other 16 holes. That was quite a turnaround from last spring, when Ortega stumbled home with a 92.

"I blew up here last year," the junior said. "I was a sophomore and I let it get into my head. That ended my season right there. There was motivation to make up for that."

The two will have another opportunity to duel at one of the area's top private courses next week. Section rules forbid players who are not members of the club from playing on the course prior to teeing off for the division tourney.

Western Athletic Conference

Hilmar's Jesminder Singh shot an 86 at the Diable Grande Ranch Course to lead the Yellowjackets to the team tournament title, outshooting Central Catholic 476-501. Both teams advance to the section Division V Tournament, Monday at La Contenta Golf Course.

Central's Jacob Smart was the medalist with a 9-over 81, and Livingston's Josh Brewer was second with an 85.

Brewer is one of six individuals also advancing. The others are Raymond Borba of Gustine, Bryce Pierce and Randy Gin of Orestimba, and Matt Brown and Duffy Murphy of Livingston.