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Johansen’s Covrig claims D-1 section title; Vikings take team crown

STOCKTON — Daniel Covrig's biggest opponent wasn't swinging a golf club Monday: There wasn't a player at Brookside Country Club within seven strokes of the Johansen senior.

Instead, Covrig spent the day dueling the weather: Gusts of wind topped 25 miles per hour and the rain came down in buckets, pelting the golfers.

By the time the day was over, many of the players were in the clubhouse telling chilling tales of their round.

Then there was Covrig, munching on a sandwich and wearing a smile.

"It took a lot of concentration today because the weather was changing so much," Covrig said. "It would be raining hard one hole, the wind would be blowing hard on another. You'd come to the next hole and the sun was out."

None of that affected Covrig, who shot a stunning 3-under 69 to win the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I crown and lead his Vikings to the team title.

Winning championships is nothing new for Covrig -- he was the section Masters champ last year -- but bringing home a section pennant was certainly unexpected for the Vikings.

It is the first time a school from the Modesto Metro Conference has won a section team crown since 2002, when Davis won a boys' cross country title.It's Johansen's first team title since 2000, when its girls' water polo team won the last of four consecutive titles.

A memorable day, indeed.

It also was a reassuring performance for Covrig. He had shot an uncharacteristic 77 at last week's MMC tourney at Creekside, a muni golf course that was designed for less-skilled golfers.

"I think I was more focused today because it was a big tournament," Covrig said. "I did a better job of chipping and putting, and that made a difference."

Those two aspects of Covrig's game contributed to his two biggest holes of the day: Eagles on two of his last three holes, capping a 32 on the back nine.

"I was placing the ball well on greens and had good lines to the hole," Covrig said. "The greens are one of the differences between a muni course like Creekside and a country club course.

"Some players thin these greens are quick, but I like them because they're consistent. You line up your putt here, you can be confident that it is going to ride the straight line right in the hole."

At muni courses, what might appear to be an easy putt can be deceiving because of hard-to-see flaws on the green.

Covrig eagled Nos. 16 and 18, par-5 holes at a combined distance of 1,092 yards, and birded the 387-yard No. 13.

His tee shot on No. 16 left him on the right side of the fairway, near a dogleg. His second shot was on the green, leaving hims 25 feet below the hole -- and he sank the next shot to create a comfortable gap between himself and Tracy's Anthony Manguray (who shot 76).

After a par on No. 17, Covrig's drive on the 18th left him 180 yards from the green. His 7-iron lifted the ball -- with the wind at his back over the final few holes, Covrig was able to use it to his benefit -- and put it within 10 feet of the hole. His putt finished the round.

"I wasn't playing consistently at the end of the (regular) season, so this is good to get this round today," Covrig said. "It was also great having my dad here. I always like him on the course."

Covrig's mother passed away in December, her life cut short by cancer.

"December 1st," says Covrig, who is heading to UC Davis in the fall on a golf scholarship. "We both miss her."

Johansen got an assist in winning a title from Turlock, which had outshot the Vikings 410-421 when the scorecards were tallied. The Bulldogs' were forced to discard an 81, though, when tournament officials ruled that Tyler Gomes had signed an incorrect card.

Gomes and the player in his foursome who was mirroring his score -- each player tracks their round, as well the round of a foe -- each had Gomes with a 6 on No. 9. After the cards were turned in, officials said, the two other players in the foursome complained that Gomes had actually shot a 7.

Officials confirmed it after talking to Gomes, throwing out his score. There was no penalty for the Tracy player who was supposed to be accurately counting Gomes' strokes: The section does not require players to accurately track an opponents' score, it is done as a matter of etiquette on the golf course.

That forced Turlock to instead use a 97, dropping it onto a tie with Tracy for second -- and both teams join Johansen in next week's Master tournament at The Reserve course in Stockton.

They'll be joined by Pitman's Troy Bennett (77) and Beyer's Drake Ortega (80), who won the MMC tournament.

Bee staff writer Richard T. Estrada can be reached at restrada@modbee.com or 578-2300.

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