Crystal Springs Uplands’ second-year boys’ golf coach Brian Klemm has good reason for his optimistic outlook about the future of the Gryphons.
“I think I’m lucky because I haven’t had anybody graduate — ever,” Klemm said.
That isn’t as bad as it sounds. On the contrary, Crystal touts a 3.88 GPA, best in the Central Coast Section, according to Klemm. More to the point, his stable of young Gryphons have emerged as quite of force on the golf links in the CCS — and beyond.
Crystal realized its 2023 destiny Monday by taking second place at the CIF Northern California boys’ golf championships at Berkeley Country Club in El Cerrito. It is the second straight year the team has advanced to the Nor Cal tournament. Sophomore Edan Cui led the way, shooting a 1-under 71, as the Gryphons scored 10-over as a team, 10 strokes better than third-place Granite Bay.
“My goal last year was to get us to Nor Cal; my goal this year was to get us to state,” Klemm said. “I think those goals were appropriate for this squad.”
The top three finishers advance to the CIF State Boys’ Golf Championships, held next Wednesday at Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach.
De La Salle won the Nor Cal championship, bettering Crystal’s team score by 13 strokes, shooting an astounding 3-under. The disparity between the scoring totals of the top three teams is not the norm, Klemm said.
“No, it’s not,” Klemm said. “De La Salle kind of ran away with state last year ... so we weren’t really that surprised about De La Salle. Then our kids ... our players just all played very solid. But I was surprised we were 10 up compared to third place, for sure.”
De La Salle sophomore Jayden Dumdumaya shot a 4-under 68 to earn the championship medal.
Cui had a big finish to earn second place in the individual competition. Crystal’s sophomore star was “struggling” through the first 14 holes, according to Klemm, shooting a 1-over to that point. Klemm said he used quotation marks “because him ‘struggling’ is still placing in the top three.”
The tide turned quickly on 15 when Cui birdied the par 4. Then on 16, the sophomore wowed on the fairway with a 260-foot 3-wood onto the green, and went on to eagle the hole with a 20-foot right-to-left putt.
“And he just brought it home,” Klemm said.
Cui finished with a 1-under 71. Senior KC Mungali shot a par 72.
As a team, the Gryphons got off to a fantastic start. Not one Crystal golfer bogeyed on the first three holes, a massive accomplishment considering the par-4 third hole is one of the toughest on the course.
Senior Russell Chiu scored the highlight, birdieing on three — this after his train wreck on the hole one year ago when he took a 7.
“That hole is like [his] demon, so for him to make a 3 on it is a huge boost in confidence,” Klemm said.
Klemm said he ordinarily doesn’t follow the scoring in real time. Because of the perilous Berkeley CC course that gave the Gryphons so much trouble a year ago, he logged onto the live scoring app fairly early on.
“I was very pleasantly surprised when I opened it up and we were 3-under,” Klemm said. “That’s when I kind of knew it’s going to be a good day.”
Sophomore Henry Chen followed with a fine run, carrying a 1-over through the first six holes. He then reeled off three straight birdies on seven, eight and nine.
“We were in pretty good position then,” Klemm said, “and when I saw him birdie those three holes ... I felt really good about the day.”
Chen and Russell Chiu each carded 3-over 75, while sophomore Griffin Chiu shot a 77.
Klemm said the Gryphons simply shot consistently across the board all day long.
“Really good golf is boring golf, and that’s what I tell them,” Klemm said. “‘You don’t have to make spectacular shots if you’re hitting fairways all the time.”
Depth has been a hallmark of the Crystal program in Klemm’s two years at the helm. It’s this depth that has the program — despite its meteoric rise onto the state-championship stage — still looking up.
As a testament to this depth, junior Danny Li — Crystal’s junior class president — has only played approximately three matches this year. He carries a nine-hole average of 41, and is the “kind of kid that will shoot a 35 out of nowhere,” Klemm said.
“That’s the luxury part,” Klemm said. “When you have a kid like Danny riding the bench, you have some good players. So, he’ll play a lot next year.”
First, the Gryphons have some state tournament business to take care of. They head to Pebble Beach next Tuesday for a play-through practice round. Then they make history by teeing off Wednesday morning in the program’s first state championship.
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