Local teams fail to reach Masters; individuals advance

Grizzlies & Tigers reach Divisionals but both were eliminated
By: Steven Wilson,
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In a shocking outcome Monday, the Granite Bay High boys golf team couldn’t find their rhythm in the opening round of the CIF-Sac Joaquin Section Divisional playoffs at Rancho Solano Golf Course. 

The Grizzlies, who went unbeaten in SFL play during the regular season, failed to make the cut for Masters as a team, shooting 396 as a group. 

Senior Drake Mendenhall led the team with a 74 and he will join two of his teammates at next week’s Masters tournament, while the rest of the squad will enter the offseason. 

“It’s frustrating because these are good kids and you want to see them go as far as they can,” Granite Bay’s coach Tim Healy stated. “The team went in feeling pretty good. I felt like we had the six guys we wanted, and we’re a senior heavy team, but I felt like it was theirs to win or lose. Everybody did what they were supposed to do. It wasn’t just one player … if anybody takes the blame, it’s me for not emphasizing putting enough.”

Healy admitted the course in Fairfield presented challenges with varying elevations on the greens and putting became a problem for many competitors. 

“We knew that going in,” Healy admitted. “If there was one thing that let us down it was putting, but we only finished six strokes shy of advancing.”

Although the team didn’t advance, Nicko Craig finished second for the Grizzlies with a 77 to earn a spot at Masters, while Tim Sauer shot a 79 and won a playoff hole to advance. Sauer beat out Del Oro’s Kyle Wesolowski and Elk Grove’s Jacob Custudio with a 20-foot birdie putt to continue his postseason.

“Drake, Nicko and Tim are all seniors, who have been with me for four years,” Healy pointed out. “Obviously, I know them really well and I’m pulling for them to make the state tournament. It’s at Poppy Hills, where they’ve played before, but it’s going to be tough because there’s a lot of great players moving on, not just in the section, but in NorCal as well.”

Karim Richani added an 82 for Granite Bay, while Jordan Bliss shot an 84. 

Meanwhile, in the Division II tournament at Empire Ranch Golf Course in Folsom, Roseville High’s squad posted an identical team score as Granite Bay with a 396. That too, was not enough to reach the next round as the Tigers were eliminated from the playoffs after reaching the postseason for the first time in at least four seasons.

The Tigers fell just just three strokes shy of tying Whitney (393) for second place in the tournament and four strokes shy of a berth in the Masters tournament. 

Ponderosa led all teams with a 388, and will join Whitney next week at the Reserve at Spanos Park in Stockton.

Despite his team’s elimination, senior Jake Littlejohn tied for the second-lowest score of the tournament with a 71, which was good enough to earn a spot in next week’s Masters tournament.

“It was nice having my team there,” Littlejohn admitted. “That's one thing I haven't had in the past and I think it made a difference for me.”

This is Littlejohn’s third trip to the playoffs in his prep career, but it’s his first time advancing to Masters.

“I've definitely gotten better over he past two years,” he added. “I’ve spent a lot of time with a swing coach, working at the golf course has helped and my overall average has gone down. I've seen a lot of progress from my freshman year to senior year — it’s surprising, but I went from over-boogie golf to a scratch golfer in four years.”

Littlejohn, who recently announced his commitment to the University of La Verne, was just three strokes shy of tying Bryce Kvick of Del Campo for the tournament-low. 

Roseville’s Arturo Zavala finished second on the team with a 78 on Monday, while Andrew Smith and George Hughes shot an 81 and Alec Martig recorded an 85.

Masters play begins with a shotgun start at 9 a.m. Monday morning, but if Littlejohn advances to the Northern California Championship round, he’ll get to play on his home course.

“NorCals will be hosted at Sierra View and it’s been my goal to get there all year," he added.