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Turlock’s Maggard takes Masters championship, headed to NorCal
Van Gaalen’s season ends earlier than expected
Masters golf Maggard
Sac-Joaquin Section champion Christian Maggard, a Turlock High sophomore, shows off his championship medal and hat after the 2023 Masters Tournament at The Reserve at Spanos Park (JOE CORTEZ/The Journal).

Turlock High sophomore Christian Maggard stood alone on the dais in front of the tournament scoreboard that displayed his red “67” and held aloft his Sac-Joaquin Section Masters championship medal for a throng of eager photographers.

Meanwhile, off to the side, teammate Clark Van Gaalen clapped politely, occasionally looking over his shoulder toward the 18th green, just a few yards away, where his season came to a stunning end.

Masters golf Van Gaalen
Turlock High junior Clark Van Gaalen keeps his eye on the ball after teeing off during the Sac-Joaquin Section's 2023 Masters Tournament (SAMANTHA SCHMIDT/The Journal).

While Maggard’s 5-under-par 67 was two shots clear of his nearest competitor and gave the Bulldogs their first Masters champion since 2011, when Paul Smith won the second of his back-to-back titles, Van Gaalen finished just out of the picture with a 2-under 70.

Not a bad round for the 6-foot-4 junior, widely regarded as one of the best junior golfers in the nation (he has already committed to playing at the University of Oklahoma). But when you consider that Van Gaalen had played The Reserve at Spanos Park in 5-under after 15 holes, it was little consolation.

“I was exactly where I wanted to be,” said Van Gaalen, who played in a U.S. Open qualifier on Tuesday and has qualifiers for the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Junior Amateur on the horizon. “I was just hoping I could par the last couple of holes and get through. That’s just golf. Golf … can be annoying.”

It can be, but it wasn’t for either Maggard or Denair’s Ethan Gonsalves, who shot an even-par 72, exceeding his pre-tournament expectations. 

Gonsalves is a 5-foot-9, 150-pound junior who took up the game just three years ago and became the first Denair golfer to win an SJS divisional title with his 73 last week at The Ridge Golf Course in Auburn. He played in an elite group that featured Van Gaalen, Tracy’s Cobus Brakee (74), and Golden Valley’s Braden Castleton (75).

“Seeing them hit their shots made me want to hit even better shots and put it even closer,” said Gonsalves, who recorded an eagle on 16. “I was aiming for anything below 75, 74. So being able to shoot even par is great.”

Masters Golf Gonsalves
Ethan Gonsalves, a Denair junior, takes his shot on the fairway during the Sac-Joaquin Section's 2023 Masters Tournament (SAMANTHA SCHMIDT/The Journal).

While Gonsalves had no problem on 16, that’s where the wheels came off for Van Gaalen. 

Gonsalves put his drive in the middle of the fairway, leaving him 205 yards to the pin. He then hit a 7-iron to within 12 feet, then confidently sank the putt.

Meanwhile, Van Gaalen hit driver that took an unlucky bounce into the water on the left. After dropping near the hazard, he put his next shot on the green and two-putted for bogey.

He pulled out iron on the 17th and 18th, but three putts on each of those greens resulted in bogeys.

Maggard, meanwhile, played in a group that was slated to tee off at 9 a.m. on hole No. 10.

“Waking up, I was thinking about hole No. 10,” said Maggard.

Instead, his group was moved to No. 13 — the toughest par 3 on the course.

It was a fortuitous break. 

“Definitely an advantage,” said Maggard, who advances to Monday’s Northern California championships at Berkeley Country Club in El Cerrito. “Back pin today, with a lot of wind, normally, in the afternoon. So, it plays really tough when you’re coming into it in the afternoon.”

Thirty minutes later, Maggard was standing on the 16th tee box, with the course’s three toughest holes immediately in front of him.

“I think what made the difference is that I went birdie, birdie, birdie on those three holes,” said the sophomore. “I made an 8-foot putt and I had two tap-ins on holes 17 and 18 for birdies. So, that definitely helped.”

Maggard made the turn three strokes under par.

“Definitely a lot of confidence going,” said Maggard.

After a bad tee shot on No. 9 that left him 190 yards away from the flag, Maggard stuck a 7-iron to within 8 feet and drained the putt for a birdie that set the stage for his final three holes of the day.

“Ten, I just wanted to play for the par and I got that done,” said Maggard. “Eleven, I stepped on the gas pedal, and I was able to get a birdie out of there. Then on 12, I just played for the par. I had about 10 feet for birdie. If it went in, it went in. If it didn’t, it’s still a great round.”

He finished with a par.

“I am a little surprised that I was able to be the low medalist,” said Maggard, who recorded six birdies and just one bogey. “Clark’s a great player. Just being his teammate has helped a lot. He always brings the best out of me. All I was really expecting was to go out there and play well. If I make it, great. And if I don’t, we’ll have next year.”

Four players in red numbers — Van Gaalen, Jacob Burnett (West Park) and Chad Flory (Ripon) with 70s, and Reese Sato (Vista del Lago) with 71 — didn’t advance to the NorCal tournament.

“I can’t remember when a 70 didn’t advance,” said Mike Garrison, who became commissioner in 2014. “I don’t think that’s ever happened since I’ve been commissioner.”

Lodi won the team championship, carding a sizzling 362, with its team members recording scores of 71, 71, 72, 73 and 75.

Maggard is now the sixth player in Turlock High history to win a section championship, joining Paul Smith (2010, ’11), Sam Smith (’07, ’08), John Adams (1967), Jimmy Thompson Jr. (’62) and Gary Olson (’56, ’57).