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SHARPENING IRON

Guzman remains motivated after historic season

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SHARPENING IRON

Lathrop High junior Christian Guzman watches his approach shot during a Valley Oak League dual match at Old River Golf Course, where he has shot career-low 6-under 30 on the front nine.

Photo by WAYNE THALLANDER/


POSTED June 9, 2017 12:53 a.m.

Christian Guzman dwells on the misses more than he celebrates the makes.

It’s what makes him the player he his, and he desires to be even better.

Guzman completed his junior campaign in the CIF Northern California Regional Championships at Sierra View Country Club on May 22, becoming the first Lathrop High golfer to advance to that level. He wants badly to move past that point next year and seeks redemption after failing to lock down his second Valley Oak League MVP honor in three years.

Despite his few failures, Guzman’s otherwise remarkable season earned him the Manteca Bulletin All-Area Golfer of the Year award.

“It really motivates me. In fact, it gets me kind of mad just thinking about it,” Guzman said. “I want it now more than ever to win MVP and make it to the state championships.”

There wasn’t a round this past spring season that he was completely happy with. Early on, he won the John Montano Invitational individual title with a 1-over 73 at Merced Golf & Country Club and took third in the Oakdale Club with a 74.

“Coming into those tournaments I knew I was playing well, but I did better than I expected,” he said. “It really helped give me a wave of confidence for the rest of the season.”

Guzman’s short game anchored the early success, but it was at its absolute best during a Valley Oak League dual match against powerhouse Central Catholic at Old River Golf Course in Tracy, the Spartans’ home track.

After a shaky start, he birdied holes 3-6, eagled the par-five eighth and closed it out with another birdie on nine for an impressive 6-under-30 on Old River’s links-style front nine. It was also the first time in his three years that he was medalist in a match against Central Catholic, the eventual league champion.

“My ball striking was actually terrible but I only had 10 putts that day,” Guzman said. “I’ve never seen that many putts fall. I didn’t think of the score until after. I was like, ‘Wow, I’m 6-under.’”

Although his ball striking was hit or miss throughout the season, he went into the VOL Tournament at Ione’s Castle Oaks Golf Club as the individual points leader. He wound up shooting his worst 18-hole round of the season with an 81, good for fifth place in the tournament. East Union’s freshman phenom, Tyler Griggs, finished 4-over-75 and was co-medalist with Central Catholic ace and Ripon resident Tyler Ward to seize the MVP title.

“It was all just set-up problems, which made it impossible to hit it straight,” Guzzman said. “I don’t think it was nerves or anything.”

Surprisingly, only one player out of the loaded VOL made it out of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III Tournament — Guzman.

Few spots — two teams and three individuals — were available for the SJS Masters Tournament, and he secured one of them by shooting a solid 73. Both Griggs and Ward were one stroke shy of forcing a playoff. Guzman became the first Spartan to advance to the Masters. 

With Griggs and Ward both returning next year, along with Weston Ranch junior Austin Thao and Oakdale sophomore Calvin Reed, Guzman knows he’ll again have his work cut out for him.

“It drives me to practice harder knowing I have to face those guys,” Guzman said. “I know that those guys can go pretty low. I have to work even harder just to stay at that level.”

Guzman overcame the flu the week leading up to Masters, and he righted the ship after a late-round collapse led to him finishing with an even 72 at The Reserve at Spanos Park in Stockton and a four-way playoff for the final three individual berths to the NorCal tourney. Guzman bogeyed the ninth hole but parred the 10th in the playoff to punch his ticket.

This time, his ball striking carried the day, but the short game — namely chipping — pushed him out of contention for low medalist. Lodi’s Justin Gums won the tournament with a 68.

“I missed four easy chances because my chipping was horrible,” Guzman said. “I could have went up and down for par but left myself with 15-foot putts. My ball striking and putting saved me that day.”

His struggles with chipping continued at NorCals. He ended up 7-over 79 after knocking in back-to-back birdies to start.

 “I’ve played in a lot of state tournaments over the summer so it was not completely new to me, but it was a good experience even though I didn’t do as well as I thought I would,” Guzman said. “At the start of the season I didn’t have ball striking and in the last half I had everything working but my chipping, and that cost me a lot of strokes.”

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