STOCKTON – Turlock High sophomore Christian Maggard hesitated to explain how he handled his business on Monday, but he eventually got it right.
“I stepped on the gas pedal,” he said.
Did he ever.
Maggard tamed The Reserve at Spanos Park in 5-under-par 67, two strokes clear of the field of 114, for medalist honors at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Golf Championship. He’ll advance to the CIF Northern California Championship next Monday at Berkeley Country Club with more than a little confidence and momentum.
That gas-pedal analogy all but nailed how he negotiated The Reserve’s nervy and trouble-filled 16th,17th and 18th holes: Birdie, birdie and birdie, the final two from tap-in range. Dreams often are crushed on those holes – more on that later – but Maggard staggered the field on them.
“I am definitely surprised at being low medalist,” he summarized. “All I was really expecting was to play well, and if I make it, great.”
Lodi totaled 362 strokes to top the 13-team field and will join runners-up Granite Bay and Rocklin next week at NorCals. The four individual qualifiers included Bret Harte sophomore Eli Weidman, who finished with a 69 and became the first at his school to reach the regional.
Maggard comes from a family steeped in athletic success. His great uncle is Turlock graduate Dave Maggard, an Olympics qualifier in the shotput who later became a major success in sports administration.
Dave Maggard was praised for his work as athletic director at his alma mater, Cal (1972-‘91) and also at Houston. Later, he assisted institutions such as the National Hockey League and his stewardship of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Today, Maggard (89) lives in Florida.
Christian has talked to his grandfather only a few times over the years but is aware of his impressive resume. “Great athletics in my family. I’m definitely grateful for that,” he said.
Maggard no doubt made his grandfather proud on Monday. He started at the par-3 13th and quickly ripped through the final holes. Then he tacked on a noteworthy finish: A 7-iron from 190 yards to within eight feet for a birdie at the ninth, followed by another birdie at the par-5 11th and a closing par.
With that, he’s the first Turlock player in 12 years to win at Masters. The Smith brothers, Sam and Paul, each received the top medal twice between 2007 and ’11.
The Reserve, sometimes wind-whipped and nasty, showed a more kindly face Monday with bright sun, breezes that didn’t affect shots more than one club, and forgiving hole locations. The result were low scores and a mixture of the sweet and bittersweet in players’ fortunes.
Section officials could not remember the last time rounds of 2-under 70 didn’t advance. Indeed, four finished in red numbers and saw their respective seasons end.
The most conspicuous of the unlucky group was Turlock 6-foot-4 junior Clark Van Gaalen, Christian’s teammate and one of the nation’s nationally recognized juniors (he's committed to Oklahoma). Van Gaalen appeared NorCal-bound when he curled in a 20-footer for deuce at the 15th to go 5 under par with three to go.
Shockingly, he pulled his drive at the par-5 16th into the penalty area to set up a costly bogey. Then, to fortify the shock, he three-putted both 17 and 18 for bogey. The same holes that spiraled Maggard into the record book cuffed Van Gaalen.
“Three bogeys in a row toward the end – it’s a little annoying, but it is what it is,” he said.
Another high-level player to barely miss NorCals was Ripon senior Chad Flory, one of the group at 70.
Weidman, the medalist at the Section D-V tournament last week at Peach Tree CC in Marysville, parlayed solid golf all day into a NorCal berth. “The hard work just paid off,” he said.
Denair junior Ethan Gonsalves, the D-VI medalist last week (73 at The Ridge in Auburn), did not flinch though he was slotted in the featured foursome with Van Gaalen. His even-par 72 included an eagle 3 at No. 16, admirable stuff for someone who took up the game only three years ago.
“This year has been very beneficial, just going out seven days a week and putting in as much work as I can,” Gonsalves said.
Ripon Christian, the winner of three straight divisional section titles, placed 13th.
All Masters results are available at cifsjs.org.