YAKIMA - Junior Nathan Espinoza, firing a somewhat sparkling 4-over-par 39 on the front nine enroute to shooting an 86 on the day, led the Sunnyside High School boys golf team to a 10th place finish at yesterday's Central Washington Invitational, staged at Yakima's Apple Tree Golf Resort.
A total of 13 teams competed in the 2A/3A division at the invite. The Hanford Falcons, led by medalist Scott Kim's 6-under-par 66, won top team honors from among the 13-school field with a bedazzling 299 aggregate score. West Valley finished a full nine strokes back of the Falcons for runner-up honors with a team total of 308.
Wednesday's invite at Apple Tree also drew 14 teams from 4A schools. The 4A division champions proved to be the Southridge Suns, who tallied a team total of 297, 10 shots lower than second-place finishing Richland. The Suns were powered by the 4A medalist on the day, Nick Mandrell, who skated across the 18 holes with a 3-under 69.
Espinoza, in posting the low individual round for Sunnyside yesterday, parred five of the nine holes on the front side in carding his 4-over-par 39. He bogeyed the four other front side holes.
The Sunnyside junior wasn't nearly as consistent on the nine holes after the clubhouse turn, although he still managed a workman-like, bogey-filled, 10-over-par 47. Espinoza's highlight on the back side came on Apple Tree's signature 17th hole, a par-3 monster-sized, apple-shaped green that is surrounded by water. Teeing off from elevated blocks, Espinoza stuck his drive six feet from the cup. His birdie putt grazed the lip of the cup, but unfortunately for the Grizzly linkster the ball failed to drop.
Still, said Sunnyside Golf Coach Gary Rohde, Espinoza's 14-over-par 86 yesterday was a step in the right direction for the Grizzly golfer.
Second in for the Grizzlies on Wednesday was freshman Chandler Luther. He finished three shots back of Espinoza with a 17-over-par 89. The underclassman couldn't get much of anything going on the front side, absorbing a 12-over 47, but Luther shaved five strokes off that on the final nine holes, collecting a 5-over-par 42.
Rohde said Luther puts in a lot of time working on his short game, but ironically it was that part of his game that let him down yesterday.
"For some reason he was struggling around the greens," said Rohde.
Rounding out the team score for Sunnyside at the Yakima invite were freshman Nathan Meyer and senior Nick Navarro, who posted rounds of 103 (49-54) and 107 (59-48), respectively.
A fifth golfer Rohde took to the invite, junior Tanner Markham, shot a 126 (60-66). Markham's individual round was not applied to the Grizzly team score.
Sunnyside's boys have added an extra competition to their schedule, that one set for this coming Friday at their home Black Rock Creek course. Rohde said his Grizzlies will compete against Grandview, with tee times set to begin at about 1 p.m. The Grizzly linksters return to their regular schedule next Wednesday, April 14, at Apple Tree for the third of their five league matches.