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Fairway To Heaven - Oakdale Golfers Shoot For Top VOL Honors
3-21 OAK Golf Prev1
A grin escapes Oakdale High junior Ian Stogdell at the Oakdale Golf and Country Club on March 15. Stogdell is one of several strong returning golfers to tackle Valley Oak League competition in 2012. - photo by IKE DODSON/THE LEADER

Depth is a terrific ally to any athletic program, but when nine well-rounded golfers represent strong contention for only six starting positions on a prep program, it can be a little tough to stand out.

A hole in one can always take care of that problem.

Oakdale junior Ian Stogdell aced his first shot on the par three No. 6 hole at the Oakdale Golf and Country Club this preseason, leading Oakdale to their lowest score of the season during a 204-223 victory over Turlock.

Stogdell was Oakdale’s top Valley Oak League point collector a season ago and emerges as the top returning talent from a 2011 squad that rallied to a co-VOL championship and Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV banner.

But he’s certainly not alone.

Oakdale returns four of their top five conference golfers from 2011, and sport a lineup that can take medalist honors from any position in the pairings.

“We have a lot of depth and we should stay that way for a couple years,” Stogdell said on Sunday. “It makes you focus and practice that much harder.”

Stogdell’s teammates include senior Michael Tripp, who has amassed an incredible 41-5 conference match record after three full seasons in the lineup. Tripp is always in contention for Oakdale’s top score, along with fellow seniors Ryan Jones, Robby Wikoff and Vince Fauria. Also back are sharp-shooting juniors Isaac Rellamas, Isaac Valdez and Jacob Hastert. Rellamas erupted late in the year with a first place finish at the VOL championship tournament.

“They all want to come in with the low score,” Oakdale coach Lee McGhee said. “It’s not like there is anybody that can’t shoot low and all six of the guys we put out there could be that low score.”

The competition within the program is a vital aspect to Oakdale’s growth, as opposing teams in the conference continue to improve and better their scores. East Union forced a VOL co-championship a season ago and returns six of the seven golfers that recorded conference points in 2011. East Union’s Will Brink and Jordan Duval finished 1-2 in VOL points last year and showcased their talents with 36 and 37 stroke scores at the Manteca Parks Golf Course as the Lancers beat Division V powerhouse, Ripon, 202-215 this preseason.

Sonora topped a rapidly improving Kimball team in a 200-218 score last week, and also expects to be in the hunt for a league championship.

“We just want to go out and play the best we can possibly play,” McGhee said. “We have been doing a lot of work together as a team and talk to the guys to make sure they are focused.”

Oakdale’s 2012 roster is 14 golfers deep, and includes freshman standout Nathan Lute, who also has reached the Oakdale scorecard this season.

McGhee said his extensive roster is a direct result of the hospitality Oakdale has received from their home course at Oakdale Golf and Country Club).

“It’s nice to play a course where the members and staff look out for you,” McGhee said. “They have all been so great and they work with us to get us out on the course and use all of their facilities. The kids take it seriously and they are respectful of what needs to be done.”

Oakdale was expected to begin the conference season last week, but postponed matches with Sierra and Lathrop after inclement weather, course maintenance and spring break scheduling delayed the start of the regular season.

Oakdale hosted East Union to tee off the conference season on Tuesday, but results were not available at press time. The Mustangs host Kimball on Thursday, March 22.