From top to bottom, the La Cañada High boys’ golf team might have the pieces in place to advance to the CIF State Tournament in June.
Until then, the Spartans have some goals along the way. One of the main ones will be shooting for a 10th straight Rio Hondo League championships with Collin Morikawa, Joshua Suh and Robby Stehlin back leading the charge. While a decade-long stretch of league dominance would merit satisfaction for some teams, the Spartans ultimately want to take the next step.
They will look to meet that challenge under new coach Rich Wheeler, who took over the program from Richard Tetu after Tetu retired following nine seasons and moved out of the area.
“It’s about putting things together now and trying to get to state,” said Wheeler, who also coaches the school’s girls’ team. “At the same time, we are also looking to keep developing talent for the next few years.
“I think we can get both of those things done. It will take a lot of hard work and discipline to do it. We want to go out and win league and then go from there. We will do our best to get to state and have some individuals try to qualify in CIF. Richard left me with a lot of talent and I want to be able to move that forward and get us to the next level.”
The Spartans might be in good position. They will bring back junior Morikawa, the reigning All-Area Boys’ Golfer of the Year, senior Suh and junior Stehlin. Suh and Stehlin were selected to the All-Area team after helping the Spartans place fifth in the CIF Southern Section Northern Team Divisional.
Morikawa won the league’s individual championship for the second straight season. Outside of La Cañada, Morikawa captured the Western Junior championship in June for the first time at Meridian Hills Country Club in Indianapolis.
“He’s going to be even better,” Wheeler said. “His accuracy is much better and he’s focused that much more on his short game.
“We will look to get Collin to state. He’s a gamer and he’s got a positive attitude.”
Joining Morikawa, Suh and Stehlin will be seniors Michael Foster and Michael Greenberg and juniors Sam Bernstein, Colin Kreditor and Adam Horne.
With most of the lineup set to return, sprinkled in with some added depth, expectations appear to be rather lofty for the St. Francis golf team.
The Golden Knights placed second in the Mission League and sixth in the CIF Southern Section Central Team Divisional last season, leading to them to raise the bar.
“There’s a lot to look forward to,” said St. Francis second-year Coach Kyle Ostrom, the reigning All-Area Boys’ Golf Coach of the Year. “First, we have a lot of guys back, to go along with some new additions, so that really energizes us even more.
“Most of the guys played in tournaments to help keep their games sharp. We have a lot of people who are excited about this season after we did well last year. We have to think better for this year and that starts with shooting for a league championship and moving up in CIF. We think we have things lined up to do all of that.”
St. Francis will have seniors Johnny Brandt, Michael Finney, Jack Tenney and Nathan Han and junior Michael Mozilo back to pave the way. They will be joined by freshman Stian Lindtvedt.
Ostrom said the Golden Knights are up to the challenge to record another successful season.
“We have a balanced team, but we still have some work that we need to do,” Ostrom said. “We are excited about what we can do and we know league will be tough again.
“The level of self-motivation is already high after the success from last season. Loyola and Harvard-Westlake will be some top competitors and Notre Dame is going to be good again.”
Loyola, Harvard-Westlake, Notre Dame and St. Francis all finished in the top six last season in the team divisional. Loyola won the league and divisional championships.
At Flintridge Prep, it appeared as though the Rebels were on the brink of beginning a new era. Veteran Coach Bob Loughrie, 72, was set to retire following 27 seasons. However, those plans were scrapped, leaving Loughrie to plan for at least one more season teaching the finer points of the game.
“I’ve found out that once you get to Flintridge Prep you can’t get out,” Loughrie, who has more than 300 career victories with the Rebels, joked. “At the end of last season, I offered my resignation to [Flintridge Prep athletic director] Alex Rivera and he said I couldn’t resign because he didn’t have anybody else to run the program. So that was the end of that conversation.
“The players all want to get better, so there’s a whole lot to be excited about. There’s a lot of energy and I think it can be a special season because there’s a lot of upside. My job will be to keep working with the players to help make them better.”
With the loss of standout Jack Bouchard, a former All-Area pick, to graduation, the Rebels will bring back sophomores Jonah Sacks and William Pai. They will be joined by freshmen Kartik Tandon, Justin Yu, Cameron Wu, Brendan Barton and Lawrence Kim.