MONDAY
CCCAA Men’s Golf Championships
At Rancho Canada Golf Course, Carmel
Notable: This marks SRJC’s third consecutive state appearance

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

After a windy first round of the NorCal men’s golf finals, Santa Rosa Junior College was within range of another state championship appearance.

Yet rain and facing conference titlist Folsom Lake challenged Santa Rosa to hold on over the second round as the Bear Cubs would do on a long day in the Central Valley.

Back in the state junior college championships, Monday in Carmel, the Bear Cubs have been tested in the tough Big 8 Conference and over 36 holes at Nor Cal.

With a starting six deep enough each can be the team leader any given match, Santa Rosa goes in calm and confident.

“Now we’re moving on to the big stage. It will be tough, but we have a chance,” said Corey Ghiringhelli, out of Casa Grande High School.

Reaching the state finals has become an expectation for Santa Rosa. Yet in the Bear Cubs’ third consecutive appearance, Santa Rosa is seeking the program’s first California Community College Athletic Association championship. Santa Rosa’s best finish at state is third.

“We definitely felt we had the team to go back to state. Now we need to step up and play well,” said Nicolas Evans, the team captain from Windsor High School.

Santa Rosa’s strength is a deeply talented six who push one another. From top to bottom, each player has shot the best golf on the team only to move back in the pack during the season. All six made the Big 8 All-Conference team.

“It’s the work they do at practice. They give it everything they can,” said Santa Rosa coach Dave Herrington.

Finishing second to Folsom Lake in conference after winning the Big 8 the past two seasons, Santa Rosa was better with a state championship spot on the line, eliminating their conference rival at the NorCal finals.

While the teams were nearly even on the season, Santa Rosa was 14 strokes better as a team at Nor Cal.

Holding onto the second and final qualifying spot by one shot after round one at Diablo Grande Golf and Country Club, the Bear Cubs were steady over the final 18 holes to pull away.

“You can’t get really hyped up. You play aggressive and go for as many birdies as you can,” Ghiringhelli said.

Managing the long course in windy and rainy conditions kept Santa Rosa near enough to par on the day.

“The second round was more of a grind to get the job done,” Daniels said. “Chipping and putting — that determines the winners.”

Santa Rosa’s depth was reflected in the Nor Cal scoring. Daniels was sixth on the team, but earlier this season was the low scorer.

“I’ve been more consistent off tees. I’ve been hitting a lot of fairways this year,” Daniels said.

Scoring second lowest among the Bear Cubs was another sign Ghiringhelli has improved his approach for the college game. While driving has been a strength, he needed steadier putting.

“I’m putting more effort into it. I’m just trying to drill in the muscle memory,” Ghiringhelli said.

Both players credit competition in practice for the improvements.

“When I get on the course I feel I can do anything,” Ghiringhelli said.

Down in Carmel preparing for the pair of Rancho Canada Golf Course layouts, Santa Rosa’s players recognize they are among the four best junior college teams in California.

“Conference for us sure gets you ready,” Herrington said. “But you don’t want to peak out. Our guys are ready for state, looking forward to it.”

With a pair of players having experienced the state championships, Santa Rosa should be prepared. Daniels and Matt Etchell, from Healdsburg high, have learned how tight scores can be even after 36 holes. Santa Rosa finished third last year, just five strokes behind the winner.

“Just the experience of being there helped me be a better player,” Daniels said.

“It taught me to play smarter. Every shot counts.”