Close Finishes Highlight 2016 CIF State Championships
It was a spectacular finish for the individual champion, while the eventual team champion just managed to hang on to a big early lead Wednesday at the CIF State High School Boys Championship at San Gabriel CC.
Hidetoshi Yoshihara, a senior at Woodbridge HS who is headed to UCLA to play golf in the fall, capped his impressive high school career with a bang, collecting birdies on the final four holes of play to edge out the competition and earn a 1-stroke victory for the CIF Individual Championship. Heading into the 18th hole, Yoshihara's coach told him where he stood, in a dead tie for first place with Adam Navigato of Torrey Pines.
"Obviously I was trying for a birdie, but I knew I just needed to make a par," said Yoshihara. "To win this individual title, and have my name on that trophy forever, is incredible. I couldn't be happier."
But Yoshihara had to perform under pressure. Playing in one of the last groups of the day, Yoshihara approached a crowded 18th green knowing he had about a 12-foot putt for the win. He stood over the ball calmly, and knocked it in without a doubt, the ball finding the center of the hole for the win. His current coach, as well as future coach Derek Freeman from UCLA, were both feet away to witness the win.
"To have my coaches here, just made it even better," said Yoshihara.
The nail-biter finish was just slightly more dramatic than the team championship, which was won by Torrey Pines for the first time since 2011. After building a large lead early, one that was as big as 6 strokes on the front nine and 8 strokes on the back, Torrey Pines began to feel some pressure from two-time defending champions Westlake HS down the stretch. With a par from senior Spencer Soosman, who is also headed to UCLA in the fall, on No. 18, the large lead closed to 2, but Torrey Pines would let it get no closer. Wilson HS from Long Beach would finish third.
"It feels amazing to win, especially in my senior season," said Navigato, who will play for UCSD next year. "In the nicest way possible, of course we wanted to beat Westlake. They've been so good for so long, we definitely came in wanting to beat them."
For Westlake, the second place finish is not one to shrug off. With five of the team's starting six players set to graduate next week, you can't help but sense the end of a bit of a dynasty for Westlake, which caps a three-year run of first place, first place and second place in the state championship. But the team will try to keep the momentum going without its key seniors next year, with junior Matt Wolff already in place as the team's leader and a deep bench of reserves now ready to step in.
Westlake was led by Wolff, who finished at 1-under-par 70, good enough for a T4 finish. He tied Tyler Schafer of Wilson, Charlie Reiter of Palm Desert and Brad Reeves of Lodi. Finishing three shots better than that group for solo third place was Kaiwen Liu of Torrey Pines, who had an impressive bogey-free day to help his team to the championship.
With his individual title, Yoshihara earns an exemption into this year's California Amateur Championship, which will be held later this month at Valencia CC.