It looks like the friendly rivalry between the Burroughs High and Burbank boys’ golf teams will take on a new wrinkle this season.
Along with the Indians and Bulldogs being longtime cross-town team foes with the two battling it out for playoff spots, the squads also posses two talented golfers who have known one another for years, which could make for an interesting individual matchup.
Burbank sophomore JJ Nakao and Burroughs freshman Lincoln Melcher are accomplished players with a wealth of experience. Both compete in the Southern California PGA Junior Tour — Toyota Tour Cup Series.
While the pair should make for some interesting competition in the Pacific League, Providence makes the jump from the Liberty League to the Prep League.
Here is a closer look at the teams.
The Indians qualified for the CIF Southern Section team playoffs last season. In CIF Southern Section Northern Team Divisional, the Indians finished ninth with a 390 in the 16-team event at Santa Anita Golf Course in Arcadia.
Melcher joins the Indians after being offered by UCLA even before he took part in his first high school match. The freshman also takes part in the the Ventura County Junior Golf Tour, the San Diego Junior Tour, the Future Champions Tour, the Hurricane Golf Tour and the American Junior Golf Assn. Tour and was the youngest member of the L.A. County Junior Golf team.
“I have never had a player with as much boundless potential as Lincoln,” Burroughs coach Greg Everhart said. “His mental toughness on the golf course is veteran for his age. His bold decision making is exciting to watch. I look forward to watching him grow over the next four years.”
With Melcher joining a group that includes a number of returners, Everhart has high expectations.
“As a coach in my 11th season coaching the boys, I have never had a better balance of solid golfers, both mentally and physically,” he said. “This is the best shot we've had since I've been coaching to win a league title. That is our clear goal this season.”
Senior Jake Panikowski is the team captain. He will be joined by senior Dylan Roy, junior Niko Coccio and sophomores Kodiak Hernandez, Ryan McGowan, Trey Sanchez and Jack Nitzsche.
The Bulldogs didn’t qualify for postseason as a team in 2018, but Nakao did qualify as an individual. He proved to be instrumental for the Bulldogs in his first season, finishing second in the Pacific League. He recorded a 74.8 average, finished first in a league match and tied for 61st at CIF Southern Section Northern Individual Tournament.
For his efforts, Nakeo earned All-Area accolades.
“He’s very competitive and he plays all year-round,” Burbank coach Doug Grimshaw said about Nakao. “He also plays against a lot of guys from the other schools, like Lincoln from Burroughs. Those two guys were like head to head in a lot of junior matches last summer.
“It’s a pretty cool rivalry between the two of those guys.”
With a large group of returning players, Grimshaw said he expects improvements from the Bulldogs.
“The good thing for us is all the young guys who played varsity last year are coming back this year, so those young guys have some experience now,” Grimshaw said. “We also have two new guys who are going to get some varsity playing time.
“We didn’t make playoffs as a team last year, and our goal is to make it this year. We had one qualify for CIF as an individual last year, and we’re hoping for two this year.”
Along with seniors Louis Calzado and Devin Blazon, the team will also feature juniors Hayden Chase, Nick Toczek and Brian McCarthy, sophomores Kevin Kienlen and Frank Maslyk and freshman Ari Ahmed.
The Pioneers didn’t qualify for the CIF Southern Section team playoffs last season out of the Liberty League.
“We moved to the Prep League this season. I really don’t know anything about the teams in the Prep League,” Providence coach Carl Light said. “I don’t know the coaches from that league and I don’t know the courses that they play.
“So, it’s going to be a learning experience this year as far as figuring out this new league.”
Light said he expects a small squad.
“We have trended down now to eight,” he said. “We have four players from last year who have some back. Unfortunately, our best player from last year decided not to come back because his academics were suffering.
“We have four new players and we will see how they are going to do.”