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Boys golf preview: New wave of talent could carry Servite to state title

STAFF WRITER

Talent has been plentiful during the time that Dane Jako has been coaching the Servite boys golf team

For three years he had two future professional golfers - Patrick Cantlay and Preston Valder - in the team’s lineup.

But the roster Jako has assembled this year, he said, has the potential to become a very special team, one that could deliver the school’s first CIF State championship.

All seven players that figure to be starters average in the 70s for 18-hole matches, including freshman Quiri Xiao.

“On paper, this is one of my best teams, if not my best,” Jako said. “If you go off of scores and tryouts, these guys play better than any team I have had.”

As a team the Friars bring a 75.4 scoring average into the season, Kyke Kinnane, the sixth-ranked player in the state, Brendan Gonzalez and Xiao, who regularly posts a 73.

Jako said it is plausible that Xiao could emerge as one of his best players even though he is a newcomer on a team that returns six players from last year’s lineup that was the only Orange County team to qualify for the SCGA So Cal Championship.

Xiao, Jako said, has a great swing and can compete with anyone on the team when it comes to distance off the tee.

So everything seems to be in place for the Friars to make their first trip to the CIF State championship since 2010 when they finished second to Santa Barbara. Whether or not they get to go to the tournament at Poppy Hills Golf Course on May 31 comes down to the intangibles on the team, Jako said.

Jako wonders if this group has that take-no-prisoners edge the 2010 team had. Will they be able to show up to practice every day, and block out all of the distractions and pressure of playing in junior tournaments around the country.

Kinnane, for one, is very active on the SCPGA Junior Tour. The junior has finished in the top 10 in tow of his last three starts, including a victory in the Toyota Tour Cup Series at the Indian Wells Resort in September.

“That team (the 2010 team) was 100 percent dedicated to winning at Servite. They were a special group in that they put all that stuff on hold for me and the school for two months,” Jako said. “No one missed a match. But I know now kids have to play in junior tournaments.”

If the Friars remain focused, they will be very tough to beat. The Friars return all but one player from last year’s team that only lost once in 24 matches and went undefeated for the second consecutive season in the Trinity League.

“But we can’t get overconfident. We need to go out and play good golf everyday,” Kinnane said.

So far, the Friars appear to be doing just that. All six players posted a score in the 70s in the season opener at Western Hills Country Club to help the Friars post a 389 and win the Servite Invitational by two strokes. Xiao led the team with a 75.

“Those kind of results are expected,” Dylan McCoy said. “We have such a high expectation that people expect of us and we have to work to get to get. But we have some high goals this year.”

Anything short of making it to state will be a disappointment.

“That is the mentality every year, especially this year,” Kinnane said. “Whoever gets the rings at CIF is the main goal.”

Contact the writer: ddottore@scng.com


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