Yuma Catholic golfers hope to break mental barriers, make another run at 2A state title
The Yuma Catholic boys golf team used its technical game to take third at last year's 2A state tournament, but the Shamrocks will hone their mental game this season in hopes of garnering a first-place finish.
"The mental game killed us last year," junior Bentley Nakasawa said. "We're working on concentrating harder at practice now so we're ready for state."
The Shamrocks opened their season in California last week, besting El Centro-Central and Holtville but falling to El Centro-Southwest by 10 strokes.
"Southwest is really the only school around here that gives us any competition," coach Mike Pancrazi said.
Yuma Catholic will have the opportunity for a little payback today as it hosts Southwest, Central and Ajo in a four-way meet at the Desert Hills Municipal Golf Club. The teams will tee off at 3 p.m.
The Shamrocks, who carded a two-day total 641 at last year's tournament, 36 strokes behind Phoenix-Northwest Community Christian (605) and Scottsdale Christian (635) a year ago, like their chances of winning the state championship this year as each team ahead of them lost key golfers to graduation. Yuma Catholic, in its fourth year as a program, had no seniors last year and has just one this time around.
"We are in really good position to win state," Jonathan Hoppstetter said. "We just have to concentrate on fundamentals and play our own games."
One fundamental Pancrazi wants to implement this year is mental toughness.
"All the kids have good mechanics, we just have to work on the mental part, the concentration and focus," Pancrazi said.
One thing helping the Shamrocks with the mental aspect of the game will be the experience the five golfers gained last year.
"Last year we were all kind of nervous," sophomore Austin Burt said, "but now we know how things go and we're just going to treat it like an every day thing."
Burt will be the Shamrocks' No. 3 golfer this year, behind juniors Hoppstetter and Nakasawa. Sophomores Glen Miller and Drew Anderson round out the fivesome.
Hoppstetter is regarded as the top junior golfer in the Yuma area and was awarded with Junior Golf Association of Arizona's player of the year honor over the summer. He played in numerous tournaments throughout the state over the winter, which he feels gives him an advantage over the competition.
"There's always going to be some nervousness, but playing in those tournaments will take away some that. That should give me an edge."
Hoppstetter said it's his personal goal to finish in the top five, but an individual championship would be nice, too.
Chris Gabel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6883.