By JONAMAR JACINTO
Chris Musseman calls Nick Sharp the “most important” player to have come through the Ripon High boys golf program in his nine years as head coach.
That’s high praise considering the talented golfers who have played for Ripon in the past decade. Sharp is the 2015 Manteca Bulletin All-Area Boys Golfer of the Year not only for his individual achievements, but for raising the level of his inexperienced teammates.
“I’ve had some really good golfers on my team but he is by far the most important and influential kid in the program,” Musseman said. “It’s not just what he scores but how he approaches the game. It’s an individual sport, but he puts his own goals aside to help the team prepare for matches.”
Ripon entered the season having won the last four Trans-Valley League titles and was the two-time reigning Sac-Joaquin Section Division V champion. Both Musseman and Sharp figured the team would be hard-pressed to repeat with four new players on the starting six.
Sharp looked at it as a new — and enjoyable — challenge. He’d take videos of his teammates’ swings on the practice range and give them pointers. Between matches Sharp helped them devise a game plan on courses they’ve yet to navigate.
“I had fun with my team this year,” Sharp said. “I knew the raw talent wasn’t going to be there at the beginning of the year. We were young and inexperienced, but it was fun coaching them up. In years prior we’d have seniors and experience, but not everyone would give 100 percent. With these guys 100 percent wasn’t the issue. I was proud of the season we had”
The Indians wound up 10-2 in league duals and placed second behind Escalon, and in the SJS Division V Tournament they took fourth out of eight teams with a respectable 452 score at La Contenta Golf Club.
Sharp himself had a few rough patches early in the season but was lights out just in time for the postseason. Sharp was low medalist in four 18-hole events starting with the TVL Mid-Season Tournament at The Course at Wente Vinyards, where he vaulted himself back into the mix for Most Outstanding Golfer honors with a first-place score of 69. On April 20, he won the Tracy/West Invitational at Tracy Country Club for a second consecutive year, finishing 1-over par 73.
At the year-end TVL Tournament, Sharp was again the top finisher with a 75. It wasn’t enough to overtake Hilmar standout Landon Azevedo for the Most Outstanding Golfer award, which goes to the player who accumulates the most points in league dual matches and tournaments. Somewhat surprisingly, Sharp wasn’t voted league MVP for a third straight season. That honor instead went to Lane Cadell of Escalon.
Sharp wasn’t bothered by it. He has developed a tight on-course relationship with his two league rivals and looks forward to seeing more of Azevedo down the road. Azevedo will continue playing for Sacramento State, while Sharp is heading to Pacific as a priority walk-on. They were fittingly co-medalists in the SJS Division IV Tournament with 3-under 68s. Cadell took third, as the trio qualified as individuals for the SJS Masters.
Sharp’s late-season momentum wasn’t enough to carry him through the Masters tournament, however. It was a microcosm of his season. Despite some stretches of great play — he totaled eight birdies at The Reserve at Spanos Park — there were enough mistakes and missed putts to keep him from reaching his ultimate goal: a berth to the CIF Northern California Golf Championships.
Sharp finished with a 73, two strokes shy off the qualifying score.
“Having eight birdies to shoot a 73 was pretty disappointing, yet having those eight birdies made it worth it,” Sharp said. “Even after all those doubles and triples (bogeys) I still had a chance, and that made me realize who I was as a person because I didn’t give up.”