It couldn’t have gone much better for the Windermere Prep boys golf team out at Mission Inn Resort — El Campeon as it took out team after team to claim the Class 1A state
Just like it had been all year, the Lakers were fueled by great play from every member of the five-man team consisting of Artem Yalovenko (146 overall, eighth place), Eric Berggren (147 overall, 10th place), Tiago Barni (148 overall, 14th place), Kenny Nguyen (155 overall, 28th place) and Danny Nguyen (161 overall, 48th place).
“It was a good team effort,” said Lakers head coach Kyle McClone. “It’s nice when everyone contributes, and they all knew if they played the way they were capable of we would be hard to beat.”
Although everyone pulled their weight out on the course, few players came in more clutch than Barni, who, after shooting seven-over-par on the first day, came back with a vengeance on the second day to shoot a season- and overall tourney-best of 69 (three under par). Barni’s strong second day was a huge part in the Lakers claiming the title seven strokes ahead of second-place finisher The First Academy.
The finish this year for the Lakers was a nice redemption from last year’s postseason appearance, during which a Windermere Prep player was disqualified because of signing an incorrect scorecard at the regional tournament.
“That was a tough pill to swallow,” McClone said. “But the way the kids came together, even after that, was incredible. I don’t think any of those people will make that mistake again. It’s a tough lesson, but that’s what golf is about.”
The good thing, however, is that tough ending to the year had the Lakers coming into the 2018 season even more focused.
At the beginning of the year, during team meetings, McClone and his players went over what it was they were trying to do with this fresh season. Priority No. 1: Win the state title.
“It puts a little more pressure on the team when they all know they can compete and play at the highest level,” McClone said. “That was our goal all year, and to have the kids come together and do what they set out to do is really special.”
With the goal set into place early, it was up to each player to put in work. Match after match, the Lakers plowed through opponents behind the team’s workhorses.
Berggren led the way for the Lakers and scored low of 35.6 throughout the season. He hit his nine-hole low at Bella Colina, where he shot six under par. Yalovenko followed suit with an impressive scoring average of 36.75.
“It was a good team effort. It’s nice when everyone contributes, and they all knew if they played the way they were capable of we would be hard to beat.”
— Kyle McClone.
Overall, McClone had nine players who managed season scoring averages in the 30s.
Although there are several highlight moments McClone could pick from this incredible year, for him, the best moments happened off the links.
“Honestly, as fun as it was to win the tournament, just being around this group of guys was really special,” McClone said. “Going to and from our matches, the kids playing music in the cars and really, genuinely having a good time together is what you want as a coach.”
Although the season for the Lakers just ended, McClone already is looking ahead to next season. The Lakers will have a young team, but will still have the talented Barni and Kenny Nguyen to lead the way.
“They’re both great players, and they’re both sophomores this year — they have a couple of years left being leaders,” McClone said. “We have a couple of younger players that are very good players, and if they grow a little bit and start hitting the ball a little farther, I think they’re going to be a huge asset.”