Eagles soar on to Masters

Balanced Del Oro golfers keep surprising coach, SFL teams at divisional
By: Eric J. Gourley, Journal Sports Writer
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LINCOLN — After the Del Oro High boys golf team dropped two of its first three Sierra Foothill League dual matches, coach Hal Steinback called a meeting to calm the Golden Eagles. Steinback convinced his players they could consistently shoot low enough to challenge perennial powers Granite Bay and Rocklin. The Eagles responded by rattling off nine consecutive dual match victories and winning both 18-hole SFL tournaments to claim the program’s first league banner since 1995. Del Oro continued to surprise Steinback Monday, placing second at the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II tournament at Turkey Creek Golf Club to advance to next Monday’s Masters Tournament. “All year long our team has been, ‘Why not us?” Steinback said. “That’s going to be the same theme next week. These kids on a given day can go low. I have complete confidence in all of them.” The Eagles shot a combined 406, eight strokes behind winner Christian Brothers and ahead of the third-place Grizzlies (419), who also advanced to next Monday’s Masters at The Reserve at Spanos Park in Stockton. “After we beat them once, we knew we could do it the next time around, too,” Del Oro’s sophomore ace Austin Smotherman said of Granite Bay. “All year we just knew we could depend on everyone. We knew someone would come through no matter if we had a high score we had to throw out or not.” Del Oro was as balanced as ever Monday on their home course as eight teams battled through chilling rain for the first hour before the weather broke several holes into the match. Junior Eric Ash fired a 5-over-par 77 to pace the Eagles. Smotherman, senior J.P. Tadlock and junior Shane Downing each shot 82 and senior Ryan Jue carded an 83. “I knew Ash and Smotherman would get the job done and usually teams have a good No. 1 and good No. 2 but you really win it with 4, 5, 6,” Steinback said. “You win it with a well-balanced team. These guys continue to surprise me, week in and week out.” Smotherman qualified for the Masters Tournament last year as an individual, but Steinback has never taken a Del Oro boys team past the divisional in 11 years at the helm. “It’s really nice,” the coach said. “Our goal is naturally to win the league and get to this Division II playoff. Now that we’re accomplished that and gotten to the next step, the road gets tougher now. You go down there and you’re playing against the Division I teams.” The Eagles plan to play a practice round in Stockton to get acclimated to the windy, treeless course. The top three teams at the Masters advance to the NorCal tournament on May 24. “We’re shooting high,” Steinback said. “I’d like to think that we can go to the next level as a team. Naturally as individuals Smotherman and Ash have an inside track to qualify, but our team all year has asked, ‘Why not us?’ We’ll see what we can do.”