2017-04-20 / Sports
Westlake boys’ golfers will try to bounce back from first league losses in five seasons
Empires fall, but Westlake High’s boys’ golf team isn’t sifting through the rubble reminiscing about the glory days.
The Warriors are still a team to be reckoned with despite having their Marmonte League winning streak, which spanned five seasons, snapped by Oaks Christian on March 23 at Rustic Canyon Golf Course.
“We got off to a good start,” said James Heatherington, a junior. “The only hiccup was the loss to Oaks, which was not expected, but we knew it was going to be a tough match. Unfortunately, we just came out on the wrong side.”
It took a solid performance from the rival Lions to upend the reigning champs.
“Their kids shot lights out,” Westlake head coach Rick Naranjo said of the Lions. “They played good at their home course.”
The Warriors will have a chance to get some revenge against Oaks Christian on April 24 at the Warriors’ home course, Los Robles Greens.
These defeats are a foreign feeling for Westlake, which built a dynasty the past five years capturing two CIF State titles, a CIF State runner-up plaque, two CIF Southern California Regional titles and four CIF Southern Section Northern Division championships.
The Warriors are off to a solid start this spring, but the team is still working hard to improve.
“It’s been successful,” Naranjo said of this season, “but not to the extremes it has been the past five years.”
Westlake’s league streak is gone, but the state title aspirations remain.
Senior Matthew Wolff, an Oklahoma State commit who medaled against Oaks Christian with a 1-under 71, leads the Warriors.
“We’re not as strong as we were the last three years, but we have a couple of people who can shoot some pretty good scores,” Wolff said. “I think we’re looking pretty good. Everyone’s playing pretty good right now. Hopefully, towards the end, we can step it up to make a run.”
Wolff is the last golfer left from the squads that hoisted state titles.
Naranjo said he’s glad to have a proven winner leading the way.
“The ones that have been able to play around him see how talented he is,” the coach said of Wolff. “He has control of his driver. He’s very consistent. He also has a phenomenal short game.”
Heatherington’s enjoying a bigger role in the varsity lineup. Despite training with the varsity golfers throughout his prep career, he suited up for a league match once, as a freshman.
He spent most of the summer fine-tuning his skills in his native Ireland. Heatherington, who moved to the U.S. four years ago, said he played 25 rounds in 35 days with friends at Glasson Country Club in Athlone, Ireland, which is about an hour outside of Dublin.
“I just played throughout the whole summer,” he said. “It just helps your game. That led into the season, and I’ve managed to maintain it. It benefited me a lot.”
The coach said he’s been impressed with Heatherington’s consistency on the links.
“He’s stepped up tremendously,” Naranjo said. “I think his experience the last two years playing with varsity players has really taught him about mentally thinking about the game.”
Seniors Jack Robi, Jerry Song and Drew Brolin are everyday starters.
Fellow senior Alex Ramos has been sidelined since being injured in a motorcycle accident.
Dylan Garland, a senior, competes with juniors George Neeson, Reese Corralejo and Noah Hollander for the sixth spot.
Westlake golfers are still hoping to capture the league crown during tournament play. The next league tournament is at 1 p.m. today at River Ridge Golf Course.
Reaching the CIF Southern California Regional final is also on the docket.
Heatherington described the road to the regional finals as if he was giving driving directions to a lost tourist from Limerick.
“We have to go step by step: get out of league, get out of Ojai and Soule Park, then qualify for Rancho San Marcos to get to Brookside,” he said.
The Warriors aren’t getting ahead of themselves.
They’re familiar with the process. They know what it’ll take to reach their goals, and they know it won’t be easy.
“Last year, if the top guys didn’t shoot a good score, we could count on our five and six guys to shoot pretty well to keep us in it,” Wolff said. “This year, we’re having some trouble. If we can keep our mind straight, I think we’ll be good.”