GLENDALE — For parts of last season, the members of the St. Francis High golf team wondered if they would advance to the 18-team CIF Southern Section Western Team Divisional.
For part of the campaign, the Golden Knights couldn’t find a consistent pattern with respect to recording low scores across the board. The Golden Knights placed fourth in the tough Mission League before catching fire in the divisional to finish tied for third with league rival Loyola at Montebello Golf Course.
In an ideal world, the Golden Knights would like to start fast this season and return to the divisional in early May.
They just might have the right group of athletes to make that happen, highlighted by five underclassmen.
“We do have a young team, but I think we will be in great shape if they play well and keep their scores relatively low,” said St. Francis Coach Jeff Durfee, who did lose Adrian Guy, an All-Area member last season, to graduation. “We would like to do better than last year, and I think we’ve got enough experience from last year to make us better.
“Our league will always be tough, but the main advantage that we will have is that we have room to succeed.”
The Golden Knights will counter with a group that will include senior Chris Campbell, juniors Vincent Korth, Drake Muir and Garrett Valerio and sophomores Bobby Coffin and Richie Maloof. All showed flashes last season of handling the pressures of making tough shots to keep the Golden Knights afloat in league and nonleague matches across the region.
Crescenta Valley will look to win its fifth consecutive Pacific League championships after years of finishing runner-up to Arcadia. It might be a tall order for the Falcons to extend their league dominance another year following the departures of Justin Yu, Kory Barkley, Michael McKinley and others to graduation.
Yu, the reigning All-Area Boys’ Golfer of the Year, won his second straight league individual championship last season. Barkley and McKinley were selected to the All-Area Golf Team.
The Falcons, who placed fifth at the CIF Southern Section Western Team Divisional last season, will return veterans Dominic Lingua and Michael Timpson.
After that, Crescenta Valley Coach John Pehar will search for the suitable replacements to work with Lingua and Timpson.
“We are basically starting with five or six new people,” said Pehar, whose team went 35-1 and 20-0 in league last season. “Lingua and Timpson are tournament tough, otherwise it’s going to be wide open in our lineup.
“Hopefully, we can find a few guys who can play to their potential, because I want them to do well and win. Arcadia will be strong in league, but I think the rest of the league is wide open to take second and third place.”
Glendale will have a top player back in senior Tammy Panich. The Cal State Northridge-bound Panich, who was selected to the All-Area Girls’ Golf Team after advancing to CIF Individual Finals last fall, will look to build on last season’s impressive showing on the boys’ stage.
Glendale Coach Anthony Mohr said Panich, who tied for fifth at the Pacific League boys’ individual finals and earned all-league accolades, will continue to impress.
“She will be a lot better,” said Mohr, who will have a group of underclassmen that will include junior Ovanes Melkonyan and sophomores Mikael Gayon and Raymond Bognot. “Her long game has gotten better, and she’s been very consistent of late with her short game.
“She’ll improve more and more and will continue to get even more confident.”
Glendale and Crescenta Valley will compete with Arcadia, Burroughs and Burbank in the league’s A Division. Hoover will likely field only a handful of athletes and will match up with Muir and Pasadena in the league’s B Division.
Hoover Coach Vigen Jilizian said sophomores Alan Cho and David Shim will compete in at least six league matches, hoping to then qualify for the league prelims and possibly the finals in late April.
Flintridge Prep, under the guidance of veteran Coach Bob Loughrie, will return several athletes in its quest to climb back toward respectability in the Prep League after placing sixth last season. The Rebels will bring back senior Patrick Hilson and junior Will Guthrie, but Loughrie said the biggest impact might be made by freshman Tracey Cheun.
“We look for her to be our best golfer this season,” said Loughrie, who will begin his 23rd season overseeing the Rebels. “She took part in a number of junior golf tournaments last summer, and I think she’s going to be for real because she’s a year-round golfer with the idea in mind to keep getting better.
“Maybe we will be .500 this year, but I’m trying to be realistic. The objective will be to get better, but I have to be able to be reasonable and try to make them better.”