Golf: Young Balers aim for Palma

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Ryan Han chips on to the 11th green Tuesday afternoon.

Resting on the fringe just outside the green of San Juan Oaks Golf Club’s 16th hole, San Benito sophomore and No. 1 golfer Ryan Han knew he put himself in a a bad spot. Luck was on his side, though.

Han chipped the ball from 20 yards away, and watched as it slow spun into the cup. The shot – which he called “lucky” – gave Han his only birdie on his way to a par 36 finish. His score was good enough to lead the field during Tuesday’s Tri-County Athletic League tournament held at San Benito’s San Juan Oaks.

Despite carding the individual tournament-low, the Balers — for the fifth time this year — finished second to Palma 212-198.

“Beating Palma is definitely important, especially because it’s our home course so we have the advantage,” Han said. “It doesn’t look like today is going to be the day. We still have a few more matches so we can still do it.”

Regardless of the team’s losses to Palma this year, San Benito has played good golf throughout the season, head coach Regie Synegal said.

Other than losses to Stevenson — at Spyglass Hill Golf Course — and a two-stroke loss to Carmel, San Benito beat every team in its league – besides Palma.

The team of eight golfers knows the Chieftains are their biggest obstacle, Synegal said.

“They know it’s right in front of them and they know the door is right here, Synegal said. “We just need to open the door. We have been coming out and we have been doing a couple of different things. We have been walking the golf course and shooting balls 100 yards in. We are doing the things we need to do to score better. We feel anytime we are within 100 yards of the pin, we feel like we need to score as team. And eventually we feel it will come true.”

Tuesday, San Benito golfers struggled with consistency and keeping up with Palma.

After Han, the other five San Benito golfers shot in the 40s. No. 2 singles player Aaron Smith, who was battling an illness, carded a surprisingly high 45.

“I know Aaron can play better than that,” Synegal said. “He has had a lot of bad luck right now, but he’ll pick it up soon. Once he does, everything will fall into place.”

Sophomore, John German shot a 40. And Andrew Colton (43), Brian Wall (48) an Cade Vallejo (49) rounded out the Balers’ scoring Tuesday.

But it’s a learning experience for the young Balers. On Tuesday, the Balers’ top-three players — Han, Smith and German — were all sophomores. With each match, the team gets better and better during its trek for a TCAL championship.

“We are a young team — most of the other teams that are in our division don’t have as many sophomore as we do,” Synegal said. “I think that our guys are going to eventually step up. I was hoping it would happen sooner but we will take it when it happens. All the things that we’ve been doing in our season is going to help us in our ultimate goal. TCALs is our ultimate goal and we are preparing for that with all these little things that we are doing.”

To match that goal, the younger players have relied on a strong work ethic to carry over to the entire team, Synegal said.

“Their work ethic is really outstanding,” Synegal said. “For a coach to see his guys out here six days a week working on their game – it’s great. Those are the guys that are out here putting the work in. It shows when they go out there and are competing.”

And the change to San Juan Oaks from Ridgemark makes them work even harder, Han said.

“It’s definitely a lot better here because we get to practice a lot of wind shots and the greens are nicer,” Han said. “It definitely offers a bigger challenge, especially on the back nine. It’s a lot tighter. It’s less forgiving and on the back nine — when it gets windy — it’s hard to judge the distances and keep it in play.”

The Balers hope to continue their success Monday at the Atwater Invitational at Stevinson Ranch Golf Course. The Balers tee off at 8:30 a.m.

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