Cats boys golf runner-up in CIF-SS Division Team Championships

West Ranch's Ben Valdez looks down range after hitting the ball on the first hole at Sand Canyon Country Club during the Foothill League Boys Golf Meet No. 1 on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. Nikolas Samuels/The Signal

Matt Monheim and Ben Valdez are both freshmen on the West Ranch golf team. They’ve both been playing golf together since they can remember. On Tuesday, they both carded varsity season-lows at the CIF-Southern Section Division Team Championships.

They both recorded 1-over 72, along with Foothill League individual champion Gunnar Murray, to get the Wildcats a second-place finish in the tournament and a trip to the next round of the postseason.

“I think it’s just awesome that I got the opportunity, especially as a freshman,” Valdez said. “It was a confidence booster that my game is in the right place and I like the feeling of being the underdog on the golf course and just proving myself out there as a freshman.”

As a team, West Ranch finished at 368, just seven strokes behind tournament champion Arcadia. Hart finished at 378, Valencia at 388 and Saugus at 394 at the event, which was held at Santa Anita Golf Course.

For Monheim and Valdez, first-time playoff jitters quickly subsided, thanks in part to a competitive regular season in the Foothill League.

“It was awesome,” Valdez said. “It was a little overwhelming with all the teams there and all these schools just going for that one common goal of moving on to the next round.”

Valdez relied on his mental game to get him through the day, while Monheim excelled in his short game.

“My putting was pretty great today,” Monheim said. “I left a couple strokes out there for sure, but overall my game was good today. I was putting the ball down the fairway most of the day.”

Jack Dudeck, Favian Busnawi and Ashton Lee each finished 4-over to provide solid backup for the freshman and Murray.

The Cats now move on to the CIF-SS SCGA Team Qualifier, which will be held on Thursday. The Indians’ Jess Scheller will be competing in the CIF-Southern Section Individual Finals on the same day.

“We’re just trying to see how far we can go as a team,” Monheim said. “We know we can play to our potential and hopefully go all the way. And it’s just exciting to see that we have three more years ahead of us.”

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