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Turlock golf ready to take Divisionals by storm
Turlock golf
Christian Maggard (pictured here at the 2022 Masters) is hoping to have a longer postseason run this year as they head into the Sac-Joaquin Section divisional playoffs on Monday (Journal file photo).

Turlock High is playing its best golf of the season as it heads into the Sac-Joaquin Section divisional playoffs on Monday at River Oaks Golf Course in Nicholas.

And that’s all the Bulldogs could hope for.

Turlock is coming off a strong performance at the Central California Athletic League championships at Greenhorn Creek in Angels Camp, where it wrapped up a perfect CCAL campaign with five rounds in the 70s for a team total of 377.

Coach Jason Boswell thinks they can go even lower.

The Bulldogs registered a 369 at last year’s divisional tournament when it captured the Division II crown. That was second only to the 363 posted by Vista Del Lago, which claimed the Division III crown. A week later, Davis-Yolo, which won the D-I divisional with a 386, captured the Masters championship with a 369.

In other words, Turlock is right where it needs to be.

“I’m really happy with their demeanor right now,” said Boswell, who guided the Bulldogs to their 17th conference title in the past 19 seasons. “They’re not tight, they’re confident. A lot of times in golf, kids’ emotions play a big toll on their round. We’ve worked really hard on the mental game and how they respond to things emotionally. The guys are ready for Monday.”

There is margin for error at the divisional level.

The top two D-II teams and the top six individual golfers not on those two teams advance to the Masters tournament, slated for May 15 at The Reserve at Spanos Park. From there, the top three teams and top four individuals will move on to the Northern California tournament, to be held May 22 at Berkeley Country Club in El Cerrito. From there, the top three teams and top nine individuals qualify for the state championships, to be held at Poppy Hills in Pebble Beach on May 31.

But first things first.

“We’ve totally gotten last year out of our system and we’re just looking forward to performing at divisionals,” said sophomore Christian Maggard, referring to a less-than-expected sixth-place finish in last year’s Masters. “We’re just taking it one at a time. That’s all we can do.”

Senior Nihal Gill echoed those sentiments.

“Right now, I’m focused on divisionals and playing well there,” said Gill. "We can always play better, but we’re in a good position.”

Juniors Clark Van Gaalen and Harry Clark led the charge at Greenhorn, a tight 5,700-yard course that nullifies length. Van Gaalen and Clark shot 73 and 74, respectively, which is all the more impressive when you consider they’d never laid eyes on the course before. 

“The last couple of months, my game has been coming together really well, and I’m just really excited for the next couple of weeks,” said Clark. “We’re getting lower and lower each round and getting better and better. We always kind of feed off each other when we play. It kind of forces each of us to play better when someone else catches fire.”

Sort of like dominoes. When one goes, they all go. And If that’s the case, then Van Gaalen is the finger that tips the action.

Already committed to play at the University of Oklahoma, the 6-foot-4 junior is the unabashed leader of the Bulldogs. He has the best chance at individual glory over the next month. Just look at his posts from the CCAL season: 68, 67, 65, 69, 74, 69 and 73. That 74 came at Spanos, which can be a monster when the wind is howling.

If the Bulldogs are going to make history, Van Gaalen will need to lead the way.

“Obviously, you kind of carry that weight on your shoulders because guys on the team depend on you, so there’s a little bit of that,” Van Gaalen said during a practice round Wednesday at Turlock Golf and Country Club. “But I think our guys are pretty solid and have played pretty consistently this year.”

Van Gaalen’s CCAL average is 69.3 strokes per round. Obviously, he can’t go much lower. It’s the other four — averaging 75.7 to 84.2 stokes per round — who need to be striking it well, just like Monday at Greenhorn.

“We want to see how low we can get our numbers,” said junior Aiden Salcedo, a transfer from Pitman. “We want to see how well we can do collectively and personally. I know that we definitely have the ability to go out and win. I’m excited to go out and see what we can do.”