OCC Pirates possess selfless bond

Daily Pilot

In the words of Ryan Knapp, the Orange Coast College men's golf team is one of an others' first mentality.

The freshman said the team has bonded as the season progresses toward the culmination — Monday's state championship at Oak Valley Golf Club in Beaumont.

OCC will compete with seven teams for state supremacy and a place in the annals of Pirate lore. Coast last competed in the state championship in 1992, finishing seventh of eight teams.

Knapp (Estancia High) said the team set its sights on the state championship at the beginning of the season. The mode is, "working hard," Knapp said.

"We play for each other," said Knapp, who shot three-under par for his final six holes in the Southern California Golf Assn. regional to finish even-par (144) for 36 holes at the SCGA Golf Course Monday in Murrieta. Coast finished second, five shots behind champion Santa Barbara City.

Knapp placed sixth, two shots behind medalist Nick Paez of Riverside City. Knapp said winds blew about 40 mph and greens were fast. Coast's Josh Hurst tallied the regional's lone ace when he holed out on the 143-yard, par-three 10th during the morning round.

Joe Doody, Kord Tagley, Benny Santa Maria and Tyler Paul join Hurst and Knapp, ranked fifth in Southern California in scoring average (74), with guidance from head coach Sean Collins and assistants John Ortega and Tom Anderson.

Collins, in his fifth year as coach, said the key this season is depth.

"Anyone in the lineup can shoot better than the other guys [in any given round]," Collins said.

A turning point for Coast came when it shot 400 against Saddleback, Collins said. That's when he said the players needed to realize they have to "play golf" and not just show up.

The guys have bonded. They practice together, talk about the tests or projects for school, Collins said.

Coast has played one practice round at Oak Valley and is scheduled for another before Monday's 36-hole championship, which starts at 7 a.m. Collins said two rounds are enough because "you don't want to sit there and beat it to death."

He and coaches want players to understand that par is OK.

Eight teams (four from both Northern and Southern California, and 12 players from teams that didn't qualify — divided equally from Northern and Southern California — comprise the 60-player field.

Coast and fellow Orange Empire Conference teams Riverside and Cypress are among the field, which includes Santa Barbara, West Hills [Northern California champion], 2009 state champion Fresno, Chabot and American River.

Knapp said the key to victory is the same as with any course — hitting fairways and greens. What will determine the winner? Drive, he said.

"It will come down to who wants it more," Knapp said. "Everyone is good out here."

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