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Youth movement paves way at Pacific League boys’ golf match

LOS ANGELES — There’s quite an impressive crop of area underclassmen boys’ golfers that is taking the Pacific League by storm.

It’s led to them registering low scores and paving the way for a bright future for the league over the next several seasons.

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Freshmen Lincoln Melcher of Burroughs and Crescenta Valley’s Hank Norman and Burbank sophomore JJ Nakao led the charge in the league’s second match of the season Thursday.

Melcher carded a three-under-par 69, Nakao had a 70 and Norman fired a 77 to ignite the local teams at Griffith Park’s Harding Golf Course.

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Melcher, a freshman, edged Nakao by a stroke on the expansive venue. The two tied for the lead in the first league match.

Arcadia, the defending league champion, finished first with a 386. Burroughs, which won the first league match at Whittier Narrows Golf Course in Rosemead on Feb. 28, was second at 395, followed by Burbank (398), Crescenta Valley (409) and Pasadena (472).

Melcher had a one-over-par 38 on the front nine before bouncing back with a four-under-par 31 on the back nine.

“I played this course a lot three or four years ago,” said Melcher, who finished first in the 55th rendition of the Burbank Schools’ Invitational at De Bell Golf Club on Wednesday. “It’s not too hard of a course if you can keep it on the fairways.

“I just missed some short putts on the first nine holes, but I got my confidence back and made some shots on the back nine. It’s so great to play alongside JJ because it’s always neck-in-neck between us and we are both very competitive.”

Nakao, a sophomore who won a Toyota Tour Cup Junior Tour event Sunday at Carlton Oaks Country Club in Santee, had a 37 on the front nine and registered a 33 over the final nine holes.

“It’s a long course and I hit the ball farther than average,” said Nakao, a reigning All-Area pick who won the first league match. “I’m not happy with my round and I had some easy opportunities and hit a couple of flag poles [on the greens].

“I’m pretty happy with where I am and I know I can play better.”

Norman paced Crescenta Valley after opening with a one-over on the front nine.

“I definitely had a good first eight holes and then i struggled at times the rest of the way,” Norman said. “I had a good short game and the ball striking was OK.

“The greens were pretty firm and it was tough to stick in some shots on there.”

Burroughs received a 78 from Kodiak Hernandez, an 82 from Jake Panikowski and 83s from Ryan McGowan and Trey Sanchez.

Burbank, which took third in both league matches, got a 77 from Kevin Kienlen, 77 from Ari Ahmed, 86 from Frank Maslyk and 87 from Louie Calzado.

Crescenta Valley, which finished fourth for the second straight league contest, got an 80s from Nate Frink,and Jayden Chung, 83 from Andrew Hong and an 89 from Daniel DeGuzman.

Justin Chen led Arcadia with a 74.

The next league match will occur March 28 at Santa Anita Golf Course in Arcadia.

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