After the Servite boys’ golf team finished seventh in their season-opening tournament in late February, an event the Friars won six of the previous seven seasons, many were convinced they were in for a rebuilding year.
So much for early results.
Servite came together at the start of Trinity League play and continued to gain confidence and sink putts as the season rolled along, eventually winning their third straight league title with several dominant performances along the way.
The Friars set out to defend their CIF-SS Western Division team title May 16 at Whispering Lakes Golf Course in Ontario.
“This group is really, really tight,” said Servite coach Dane Jako, in his 16th season heading the program. “When it’s time to play, they’re ready to play.”
Many on the outside looking in figured Servite wouldn’t have the talent to contend for another league title.
After all, two-time league champion Matt Wilson graduated, as well as last season’s Servite Invitational winner Brandon Brame and Tanner Gunning, who shot a one-under 69 at Whispering Lakes last spring to help Servite win its fourth section title in the last seven years. Chad Deegan, one of three freshmen in the top seven last season, moved to Georgia in the offseason.
Coming into this season, the Friars knew they’d be anchored by sophomores Kyle Kinnane and Jack Rahon, two solid players, but they’d need five good scores to win. The program received a boost when Blake Hale transferred in to become the lone senior on the roster.
Jako had only received two transfers in all his years at Servite, and the school typically doesn’t accept senior transfers, but Hale’s stepfather, Oscar McBride, was hired as an Associate Dean of Students and the offensive coordinator for the football team.
“Blake came in and fit in perfectly,” Jako said.
Servite seemed to hit its stride the first week of April. The day after an 18-hole one-stroke loss to Long Beach Wilson, the Friars went out and posted a 21-stroke nine-hole win against Santa Margarita on its home course at Coto De Caza.
The top five scores for Servite were a combined eight-under, a school record for a road match, and even its the sixth-best score came in at one-under.
“A light went on there that kind of rejuvenated them,” Jako said.
The Friars wouldn’t lose again during the regular season. Rahon and Kinnane finished second and third, respectively, at the Trinity League finals April 27 at Yorba Linda Country Club and advanced to the CIF-SS individual round beginning May 9 at Skylinks Golf Course in Long Beach.
Jako said one of the reason’s he’s been able to remain so consistent over the years is the quality of his players, not just in their mechanics and knowledge of the game, but their commitment to the program.
He said he’s never had a player miss a match to complete elsewhere, even though he’s had a number of players who were elite amateurs.
This season’s group may not have anyone at that level yet, but they’ve certainly shown the characteristics of past teams, particularly when it comes to attitude and commitment.
“I’m very, very happy for them. They’ve pretty much done it on their own,” Jako said. “I just stay out of their way. I get them to the course, give them their notes, say a prayer and they know what they need to do.”