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Diamond Bar Rebuilds Fast With Freshmen

TIMES STAFF WRITER

When Kevin Na left Diamond Bar High and turned professional following his junior year, Coach Tony McCabe figured this would be a rebuilding year for his team. A couple of freshmen, however, have changed his thinking. Eugene Choi and Daniel Cho have filled in nicely for Na, the No.1 junior player in the nation at one point last year.

Choi and Cho each have been medalist in matches this season and they join a lineup that already included seniors Eddie Hsu and Eric Chang. The Brahmas shot 183 in the first Sierra League match and hold a seven-stroke lead over defending champion Damien.

“We have high hopes this year,” McCabe said. “We miss Kevin, but the freshmen have been performing better than I hoped and we have a team that’s 10 players deep. All 10 of them can break 80.”

Diamond Bar won the 40-team Riverside M.L. King tournament Friday at Quail Ranch, defeating Riverside Poly, ranked No. 2 by The Times at the time, by three strokes. It was a three-man tournament, but Diamond Bar entered two teams and the second team finished seventh. The top five scorers for Diamond Bar totaled 375.

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“I told the guys that we’ve gotten to the level that we wanted, but now the trick is staying here,” McCabe said. “Shooting 375 is good here and we could probably get through the regional with that, but we need to improve if we want to make it past that.”

Last year, Diamond Bar finished third in the Eastern Divisional, one stroke away from a spot in the Southern Section finals. In 2000, with Na on the team, the Brahmas finished third in the Eastern Regional behind Serra League powers Anaheim Servite and Santa Margarita. The Serra League is no longer in the Eastern Division.

McCabe is looking forward to an April 3 match against top-ranked San Marcos, a team that regularly shoots in the 360s, has shot under par as a team in a match this year and has set the standard for golf this season. McCabe believes his team can compete, but wonders who might be favored if he still had Na.

“We’re good now but if we still had Kevin, we’d be San Marc-ian.”

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M.L. King is off to an impressive 5-0 start in its first year with a varsity team, especially considering that two of the team’s top three players are freshmen girls.

Nicole Smith, who won the Southern Section girls’ individual championship last fall, and Sommer Scholl, an accomplished player on the junior circuit, are averaging 40 and 41, respectively. King did not have a girls’ team this season, so Scholl and Smith are allowed to play on the boys’ team. They join top player Will Farish, a senior, to give King a solid lineup.

The Wolves are averaging a respectable 207, have broken 200 twice this season and set a school record by shooting 191 last week. Smith was medalist in that match with a one-under 35.

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Early-season lineup juggling has led to inconsistent results for some of the top Southland teams.

Santa Margarita had two matches scheduled for the same day last week. The A team went to La Costa Canyon and the B team played the second half of a match against Irvine Woodbridge. Both Santa Margarita teams lost, even though the Eagles held a nine-stroke lead going into the second half of the Woodbridge match.

La Mirada also has been shuffling its lineup and has shot over 200 twice without its top players, but the Matadores have managed to remain unbeaten.

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