Granite Bay's great eight ready to take on field at CIF State Championship

By: Bill Poindexter/Roseville Press Tribune Sports Editor
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It was at this time last year that Terry Stafford began attaching a big, red number “370” at the end of all his e-mails to his Granite Bay High School golfers.

“They finally figured out that (was the score that) qualified for state last year,” he recalled Thursday between final exams. “That (was) our goal, to break 370.”

The Grizzlies have broken 370 three times this season — 369, 368 and a school-record 363 at The Reserve at Spanos Park in Stockton that came within two strokes of matching a 26-year-old mark for the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters tournament.

Granite Bay has met all of its goals this season and, as Stafford noted, “surpassed them in a lot of ways,” most notably dipping into the 360s at 18-hole team tournaments. The Grizzlies won Sierra Foothill League and section Division II and Masters championships.

They’ll head to Southern California next week ready to challenge for a title in their first trip to the CIF State Championship.

The team will fly south early Tuesday and play a practice round that afternoon at San Gabriel Country Club. The tournament is Wednesday, and the Grizzlies believe they can win it. Stafford said he met individually with the players Thursday.

“They have to go there ready to shoot their low round of the year, and we have a chance of winning this thing, but everybody has to go low,” he said. “We literally have a chance.”

Granite Bay qualified for the state tourney with a third-place finish at the NCGA/CIF Tournament on May 21. The Grizzlies shot a 373 team score, eight strokes behind Pleasanton-Foothill and seven behind Pebble Beach-Robert Louis Stevenson.

“What they’ve accomplished is pretty amazing, to be one of six teams left in California,” Stafford said. “We’re going to go down and give it our best.”

Each of Stafford’s top eight players has posted the low score for the Grizzlies in a competition this season. Alex Gibbs, the lone senior on the team, has averaged 37.1 strokes per nine holes and junior Brandon Baumgarten 37.14. The other six — juniors Chuck Pedone and Bryan Wise, sophomores Mitch Markin, Zack Kwan and Brice Absalon and freshman Jeff Inouye-Wong — average within 1.5 strokes of each other.

“For them to shoot that 363 at Masters was amazing,” Stafford said. “Any one of the eight could shoot low for the day.”

Stafford said six players have had personal swing coaches for several years, and some approach the game more aggressively than the others. Stafford focuses on the mental part of the team’s game, trying to get them to play relaxed.

“They’ve been at it for a long time. They’ve been building toward this. It’s pretty cool,” he said. “It’s crazy. I can’t play with them anymore. They’re just too good.”