Posted on 18 May 2013 by La Habra Journal
By Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal
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Since the Freeway League added boys golf 10 years ago, Sunny Hills has been at the forefront when it comes to league championships and individuals heading into the CIF playoffs.
However, Sonora junior Richard Atnip opened some eyes this year when he entered himself into the mix, outlasting two Sunny Hills golfers in a three-hole playoff to earn the final Freeway League berth into the Regional tournament, which was held Monday at Victoria Club in Riverside.
This year, the Freeway League was given six spots in the tournament. Four of those spots went to Sunny Hills and one went to Troy.
After 36 holes of golf spanning two days, the junior was tied with last year’s defending league champion, Hansel Suharli and David Won, both of Sunny Hills, in the Freeway League championships.
“I put myself in a pretty good position the first day, I was tied for 5th place,” Atnip said. “My goal the second day was to keep ahead of the people who were behind me and staying with those who were tied with me. Won ended up tying to force the playoff…. It was about as nerve-wrecking as golf gets.”
David Won was eliminated after the first playoff hole, leaving Suharli and Atnip to face off for the final spot.
On the third playoff hole, Atnip acknowledged that both he and Suharli hit good tee shots, but Suharli’s approach landed quite a bit shorter than his own.
Knowing the pressure was on Suharli, Atnip played it safe, deciding to take a two-put approach, which would at least give him another playoff hole.
However, Suharli’s first put left him about 15-feet from the hole, near the same distance as Atnip’s first put. After Suharli missed on the second attempt, Atnip looked at a 3-foot put for the win.
“It was pretty scary because you miss those every blue moon,” Atnip said. “You think about it, but I never got too out of my head, I felt pretty focused throughout the playoff.”
The junior had no problem and in sinking the put, became the first Sonora golfer in the 10-year history of the program to rightfully earn his spot in the CIF Regional.
“He put together two good rounds of golf,” said Russ Moreno, head coach. “He performed very well and represented Sonora very well.”
At the Regional tournament, held at the Victoria Club in Riverside, Atnip faced some unusually hot and windy weather conditions.
“It was like being in a dryer,” he said.
With the top 30 finishers advancing, plus those who tie the score of the 30th finisher, Atnip knew that the challenge was large, but felt good going in.
However, Atnip said his short game just wasn’t there and he fell behind early at 5-over-par through the first three holes.
But the junior began to turn things around midway through the back nine, stringing a birdie-par-birdie to get back to three-over-par.
“Once I got started on the course, my swing and my short game were a little out of sorts compared to the previous three weeks,” Atnip said. “I didn’t finish exactly how I wanted to. It was just one of those days where it wasn’t going my way, I wasn’t putting too great.”
After finishing the back nine at 4-over-par, however, the struggles continued on the front nine as Atnip finished the round at 12-over-par, six strokes above the 30th place finisher, ending what was a great season that got off to a late start due to a back injury.
The injury kept Atnip out of action for eight weeks, forcing him to miss the final four weeks of preseason, plus the first six matches of the regular season.
Being the team’s leader, Atnip could only watch as the team struggled out of the gate.
“It put us in quite a predicament,” Moreno said. “The rest of the team didn’t really gel as well. He’s a leader on the team, not only does Richard shoot well and play golf well, but he brings that group cohesiveness, the work ethic, which wasn’t there at the beginning of the year.”
But when he returned, so did the success. Atnip medaled in nine of the remaining 14 matches, scoring the lowest total between both schools.
Not only that, but the rest of the team started to follow suit, which Moreno believes was because Atnip’s teammates now had an example.
“I’m not blaming Richard, but we lost two matches that we would have won with him,” Moreno said. “Having a player like him, he brings everything back into perspective. When he returned, our scores as a team started to go down, we played better, had better focus. He gave his teammates something to shoot for.”
Because of those efforts, Atnip’s teammate, sophomore Charlie Yoshitake, also earned all-Freeway League honors. Atnip earned a spot on the all-league team for the third consecutive year.
It was, however, Atnip’s first time earning a spot in the CIF Individual Tournament, a feat that had never been done before in Sonora golf.
In 2008, two Sonora golfers made the CIF Individual Tournament as atlernates and played because two of the original top six golfers dropped out.
Though he didn’t advance, being in the tournament gave Atnip a taste of what to expect for next season.
“I was really happy about the way I played after the back injury,” Atnip said. “Anything is easier the second time you do it, but I felt like I was confident the day of, I just didn’t have too much going for me as far as my game goes.”
To add a final thought on his junior season, Atnip kept his answer brief, but to the point.
“I thought it was a great season,” Atnip said. “I’m proud to be a Raider.”