Lowell High School boys’ golf coach Juan Lopez has been stressing to his players all season long on the importance of mental toughness.
“I ask them what’s going to happen if the shots are not falling their way,” Lopez said. “Are they going to dwell on it or move on and be able to overcome it and come up with something good on their next shot?”
The answer came in Monday’s San Francisco Section-Academic Athletic Association tournament championship, as Lowell cruised to a 418-477 win over Washington at Lincoln Park Golf Course. The individual champion also came from Lowell in super sophomore Sam Miller, who shot a seven-over par 75 to win by a stroke over teammate Scott Bang and Washington’s Joey Yasuhiro.
The Cardinals, winners of four consecutive AAA titles, advance to next week’s CIF NorCal tournament at Diablo Grande Resort Golf Club in Patterson, and Yasuhiro also advances as the top individual from the non-winning team.
“These guys are the essence of what a team is about,” Lopez said. “They help each other out, and they’re constantly challenging each other to get better.”
Especially Miller, who even as a sophomore has been a mentor to his teammates. The precocious Miller had a round of two birdies, five bogeys and a triple bogey on the 12th hole, but he stayed focused throughout his round to win the first tournament of his career.
“It feels good,” said Miller, who finished in third place last year. “I’ve been working really hard on my game the last year, and it all paid off. I thought I played pretty well despite the final score.”
Possessing an all-around game, Miller was able to survive the triple on No. 12 and a bogey on the 13th.
“Sam is really strong mentally,” Lopez said. “He’s got an all-around game in that he’s able to drive the ball long and finesse the ball with his shorter irons. It’s a blessing to have such a young guy who has a great and positive attitude.”
Wallenberg sophomore Shawn Imamura was the third-place finisher with a 77, while two-time defending champion Ben Olson of Balboa carded a 78. Sean Li (81), Alex Hsaio (91), Harrison Lee (95) and Lawerence Jiang (101) rounded out the Lowell scoring. Lowell beat Washington in both of their league contests, but the Cardinals won by just eight strokes the second time around.
“So we knew what Washington was capable of,” Lopez said. “Fortunately, our guys came through when it mattered the most.”