Golf proving to be Raskin's sport

Del Oro junior is one of two Eagles headed to state tournament
By: Justin A. Lawson Journal Sports Writer
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A crowd of nearly 200 gathered on the 17th hole at Butte Creek Country Club as a four-man playoff whittled down to two: Del Oro High junior Justin Raskin and Zach Smith of Amador Valley. Raskin had little reason to show confidence as he clung to a hope of reaching the CIF State golf tournament after he bogeyed the previous hole. But he knew the 172-yard, par-3 might be his last chance. ?It might not be a PGA tournament, but I felt like it was the final hole of a U.S. Open and I was tied going in to the hole,? Raskin said. He used his 7-iron off the tee to get within one foot of the pin, a gimme putt, but couldn?t watch as Smith hit within 15 feet. Raskin instead watched his teammates? reaction as Smith narrowly missed and allowed Raskin to clinch the final spot in the NorCal golf championships last month. The ninth-place finish allowed Raskin to move on to the state championships with teammate Austin Smotherman, who will make his third appearance, Wednesday at San Gabriel Country Club outside of Los Angeles. While Raskin?s playoff experience was a story in itself, his ride to golf and even Del Oro is just as interesting. Raskin was a soccer star, who had played the sport for as long as he can remember. He played on Forest Lake Christian?s varsity team as a freshman where his three assists were the third best on the team. His dad, Ken Raskin, introduced him to golf a year earlier and after he worked with the staff from Black Oak Golf Course, Raskin won the Central Valley Christian League in his first season. In a whirlwind, Raskin decided to drop soccer and concentrate on golf. He also elected to transfer to Del Oro to give his college options a more recognizable high school with the perk of playing golf against better competition. ?We just had great word about Del Oro and how it makes you a better person and I know they had a great golf team,? Raskin said. In his two years at Del Oro, Raskin has learned the ins and outs of the game from three golfers that went on or will go on to play collegiately. Eric Ash and Robert Sahlit, who were part of last season?s league and section championship team, are at Sonoma State and Sierra College, respectively. Smotherman will move on to Southern Methodist University next season. ?Probably the biggest person I?ve learned from is Mr. Smotherman, Austin,? Raskin said. ?He really taught me a lot about how to handle yourself on the golf course. He is a great influence, not only as a person, but especially as a golfer.? Raskin and Smotherman will be among the state?s top 54 golfers in the tournament. While Raskin isn?t a favorite to win the state title, it should serve as a good experience for him for next season when he will become the Eagles? No. 1 golfer. ?He?s just fallen in love with the game and he?s got a passion for it,? Del Oro coach Hal Steinback said. ?I see him having a nice senior year next year as our No. 1 with Austin graduating and he?s going to pick up, hopefully, right where Austin left off.? The state experience should also help him land a college scholarship. Raskin has eyes locked on the University of San Francisco, but is also interested in William Jessup, St. Mary?s, Gonzaga and Cal State Monterrey. Raskin said he might return to soccer in his senior year, but it?s clear which sport has won his heart. ?Going on to state as an individual is probably one of the greatest achievements that I?ve had throughout my golf career,? Raskin said. ?It just shows my potential that I have.?