Menlo's Grimes and Buchanan advance to NorCal golf finals


By Rick Eymer

Palo Alto Online Sports

Menlo School senior Patrick Grimes took a shot at history at the Central Coast Section Golf Championships on Tuesday at Rancho Canada (West) in Carmel Valley. He missed.

Grimes was hoping to become the first three-time champion in section history, following up on the titles he won in 2008 and 2010. Instead, his missed out on the feat by just three shots as Michael Decker of R.L. Stevenson won individual honors with a 2-under-par 69.

"I had fun coming here," said Grimes, who also finished 10th as a sophomore and third this year. "It's always a confidence booster."

Grimes, who is entered in several summer tournaments, shot an even-par 71 as did Menlo sophomore Andrew Buchanan. Both will advance to the CIF-NCGA NorCal Boys Golf Championships on May 23 at Butte Creek Country Club in Chico.

"You don't see many players get that tough in so few years," Grimes said of his younger teammate. "He's going to do well in big tournaments."

Buchanan, who has played over 30 rounds with Grimes, qualified for the California Amateur Championship in June and will also play in several more tournaments.

Buchanan was one of the few golfers on the day who benefitted from the soggy conditions.

"For some reason I like the rain," he said. "Probably because I have to think more about things and slow down the process."

Grimes and Buchanan are the only local golfers moving on. Menlo-Atherton finished sixth in the team race with 400 and failed to advance, as did Palo Alto, which had a 413 and finished eighth.

David McNamara shot 78 to lead M-A while teammate Travis Anderson had a 79. Palo Alto was led by Michael Yuan's 79. None of the three advanced as individuals. Portola Valley's Maverick McNealy of Harker and Sacred Heart Prep freshman Bradley Knox each shot 82.

"We traveled to a tournament in Palm Springs this year and I believe that's the reason we qualified here," M-A coach Buff Guirlani said.

Anderson and McNamara, both juniors, agreed.

"It helps you mentally," Anderson said. "It's a hard course and better competition. You have to learn how to take your lumps."

The Palm Springs event was structured like a college tournament: 36 holes one day, 18 holes the next.

"You learn a lot about yourself and your game," Anderson said.

It's the second time M-A has played as a team in the CCS, something McNamara appreciates.

"It's good practice to see how we do and what we have to do," he said. "There's no doubt that if I came here as an individual I wouldn't want to advance any further. I'm not that serious about golf. When I get too serious I just get frustrated. I'm just going to keep playing for the fun."

M-A senior McKinley Mathon decided to play golf this year.

"By the end of the year he was pretty good," Guirlani said. "I kind of wish he would have started as a freshman."

Senior Colton Toy plays golf as a balance to his musical side. He's on his way to USC on a music scholarship. He's an accomplished pianist.

R.L. Stevenson, which uses Rancho Canada (West) as its home course, won team honors with a 358. Palma was second with 380, Ignatius was third with a 381 and St. Francis finished fourth with 390 strokes.

Everyone had to battle damp, windy conditions all day but escaped any heavy rain. Only five golfers shot par or better.

Grimes remains as one of only four golfers ever to win the CCS championhips twice. The others are Naka Ushijima of Burlingame (1981-82), Christian Caever of RLS (1987-88) and Joseph Bramlett of St. Francis (2004-05).

Grimes, who is headed for Stanford in the fall, also is one of only three Menlo players ever to win the section title. Phil Huff won in 1989 and Roger Pineda captured the title in 1991.

McNealy finished ninth in last year's CCS tournament. The sophomore said his putting game was off.

"I had way too many three putts and my club selection was off a little bit," he said. "I left everything short."

McNealy qualified for the Cal Amateur out of San Jose Country Club and will also compete in the U.S. Amateur qualifying tournament.

Knox and fellow freshman Sam Niethammer of Palo Alto also learned a few things about themselves and both took their round for what it was worth.

"I didn't start great at all," Niethammer said. "I started with two bogeys, but then shot par for a few holes and got some momentum. I shot a birdie on No. 9 but then I kept missing putts and my round disappeared."

He did finish on a good note, sinking a 40-foot putt for par on the 18th hole.

Knox was playing for both himself and his older brother, Kevin, who missed the cut because of a scorecard playoff.

"I think it was kind of unfair we didn't have a playoff," Knox said. "We tied but I shot better on the back nine."

Kevin Knox shot a 71 at last year's CCS championship, finishing sixth and helping the Gators finish fourth as a team.

Palo Alto earned the trip this year by four strokes over Sacred Heart Prep.

"I started off well," said Knox, who started on the 10th tee. "After a bogey I hit par six holes in a row. I missed a comeback and went on a downhill slide. missing par five or six times in a row. Then I just started to try for birdies and went OB."

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