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Del Oro tees off undefeated

By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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Hal Steinbeck didn’t expect his golf team to be Sierra Foothill League champions last year. It’s not that the Del Oro boys golf team wasn’t stacked with talent, but he saw 2011 as their year. The Golden Eagles beat out Granite Bay and Rocklin, who have strong winning traditions, for their first ever SFL title. “Last year was sort of unexpected,” Steinbeck said. “This is the year that I thought really we’d have a good shot at winning the league.” The Golden Eagles have gone undefeated (7-0) in their matches this season, which means they have a good shot at defending their surprise SFL championship reign. The varsity team consists of eight players, hand-selected from a crop of 31 who tried out. Steinbeck said all eight of his players are at a high-level play. “I feel confident with any of the eight in any position in our line-up,” Steinbeck said. “We have broke 200 which is exceptional. We shot the best round of any team I have ever coached, 178.” One of those eight is junior Austin Smotherman who recently gave his verbal commitment to play golf at UC Davis when he graduates. Smotherman, the SFL’s Most Valuable Player of 2010, has been golfing since he was 2 years old and is working toward becoming a professional golfer. His skills on the green have taken him to national competitions as far as Florida and Michigan. Smotherman also placed third at the San Diego Junior Amateur Competition last year. What sets him apart from many young and talented golfers is that he hasn’t grown up in a golf academy and rarely receives professional coaching. “I’ve had a few lessons, but nothing too formal,” Smotherman said. “I have met with a couple of pros, but I focus on knowing my own game. I don’t want to play someone else’s game.” When he’s not golfing Smotherman has other jobs in athletics. “Don’t laugh, I umpire girls soccer with the Five Cities League,” Smotherman said. “I also referee basketball for the Hot Shots League.” He said that at the end of the day golf basically comes down to the individual, but at the high school level each player’s score makes a difference. Steinbeck has senior Eric Ash seated in the No. 1 position. Ash is planning on attending Sonoma State University next year and playing golf as a walk-on. Smotherman and Ash have been a dynamic duo for years now. They grew up playing baseball together up until Smotherman quit to focus on golf. Several of the members of the Del Oro team also work at local golf courses to earn free practice time and soak up golf knowledge. Steinbeck said that freshman Johan Nargussi is one up-and-coming talent. Nargussi’s talent may run in the family. His brother is a professional golf instructor. The Golden Eagles focus on knowing their course, Turkey Creek, to a fault. Smotherman said the front side is a more challenging nine-holes and acknowledged that it was one of the more difficult courses in the league. That often gives Del Oro a home-course advantage against visiting teams. Steinbeck also credits the tremendous parental support his players receive for their success. While the Golden Eagles golf team may be brimming with talent, they never forget about the other competitive teams in the SFL on their backs. They are always just a few strokes away from being beat. “Granite Bay gave us a run last year,” Smotherman said. “They have a pretty young team, but it’s a pretty young team with talent. We are going to have to play well.” Reach Sara Seyydin at saras@goldcountrymedia.com