*Editor’s note: This is the 10th in a 12-part series previewing Davis High’s spring sports.
When a young team has success — such as winning the Delta Valley Conference golf title as the Davis High boys did in 2012 with just one senior in their lineup — it is twice as exciting for coaches and fans. That’s because while reveling in the moment, there is also the idea that the future could be even brighter as the players gain experience.
That future is now for the Blue Devils.
Four-year standout Chase Dossa, now a senior, paces a DHS squad that features an exciting blend of talent and experience.
After winning the conference championship last season, the Devils lost the chance to advance to the Masters tournament on a playoff hole at the Sac-Joaquin Divisionals. (Vacaville won the extra hole to move on.)
The good news? Davis has all but one of the players who took the course that day — Charlie Klein has graduated — back to get revenge in 2013.
“We have a lot of returning players,” veteran coach Karl Ronning explained. “Seniors Chase Dossa (this year’s captain) and Michael Chen are providing leadership by example. Last year’s freshman sensation Preston Walchli is back showing the improvement that comes from another year’s experience.
“Juniors Cyrrus Espino and Spencer Salk, along with sophomore Jackson Kavrell, are competing to show they are ready for varsity competition.”
But all of those returners won’t be guaranteed spots in the lineup as Ronning has a crop of newcomers ready to push for playing time. Two in particular — freshman Sam Yamauchi and sophomore Patrick Cajandig, who also plays water polo at DHS — have made a splash early.
With the Blue Devils set to open the season at the Wolfpack Invitational on Tuesday at Castle Oaks, Cajandig qualified for the No. 2 spot in the lineup. As for Yamauchi, Ronning said he “has already established himself as a top performer after only a few weeks of practice.”
Since head-to-head competition is used to determine the lineup for each tournament, an observer might assume that the Devil golfers would embrace the individual nature of the sport. But under Ronning’s guidance, the opposite is true.
“We are a team that is going to succeed because everyone likes, supports and respects their teammates. Everyone pulls for everyone to do their best,” Ronning said. “They work hard to make themselves better by making each other better.
“There is such a positive vibe every day at practice and I cannot help but feel these guys are going to continue to grow and improve throughout the whole season.”
That improvement will be key as the Blue Devils play five tournaments then dive headfirst into DVC action, with the first of four league get-togethers set for April 8. Franklin and Elk Grove are once again DHS’ top conference competition and Ronning said each brings several key golfers back from last season.
“Whoever comes out on top of the DVC will have earned it,” the coach added.
The Devils won’t play a tournament in Davis during the regular season, but should they win the DVC and qualify for the SJS Divisionals, they won’t have to drive far. DHS hosts the first playoff round at Wildhorse on May 6.
Advancing to the Masters tourney, set for May 13 at The Reserve in Stockton, would pit the locals against the Sacramento area’s best, expected to be Jesuit, Christian Brothers, Rocklin, Woodcreek, Vacaville, Del Oro and Granite Bay, among others.
But before they look too far ahead, Ronning has a plan for his guys as this season gets under way:
“First, we need to establish the work ethic that will allow us to realize the tremendous potential this team has. We need to learn to maintain our focus both on and off the course without becoming stressed.”
Golf can be stressful? Who knew.
— Reach Chris Saur at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8049. Follow him on Twitter at @CSaurDEsports