APTOS—Aptos High boys’ golf coach Paul Zech felt a lot of pressure to have a good season this year, especially considering the program’s rich tradition of winning on the course.
The first-year head coach was also filling in the shoes of longtime skipper Jamie Townsend, who won 10 Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League titles in 16 seasons.
But the legacy continues for the Mariners who won their 62nd-straight league match and captured their fifth-straight league championship banner.
“We’ve won so many times no one wants to give Aptos a trophy,” Zech said.
Aptos senior Dominic DeLuca shot a team-low 39 (four over par), for the Mariners in a 209-245 win over the Knights in league play April 28 at Seascape Golf Club.
They finished with a 8-0 record in league play and shot 259 fewer strokes than its opponents this season.
“I don’t care what their scores are, and I don’t care where they stand in the league,” Zech said. “We’re gonna focus on us, we’re not gonna focus on who we’re playing.”
DeLuca earned his fourth medalist honor of the season. Other contributing Mariners included seniors Vito Riccabona (41), Ben Meltzer (42), Joey Mackle (45) and Shane Garvey (47).
“It felt sick, I mean it was super fun.” Riccabona said of winning the league title. “We were undefeated last year, and that was cool, but this year it means more because there were more games.”
Zech said the secret to this season’s success was the depth of talent available on the roster.
His top two players—Riccabona and DeLuca—played a huge role in every match. But having the 4-5-6 players performing well was just as important to the team wins.
“Whoever plays in the 4-5-6 spot on this team, they’re winners man, and that’s why we win,” Zech said.
With the Covid-19 pandemic disrupting the previous two seasons, Zech made it his goal to give the players as many opportunities as possible to hit the links this season.
“These guys that are seniors this year, they really got the short end of the stick the last 2 and 1/2 [years] because of Covid,” he said.
The Mariners had at the most eight matches in the past two years due to a canceled 2020 season and an abbreviated 2021 spring season.
Besides daily practices at Seascape Golf Club, Zech set up friendly preseason scrimmages to give his players extra practice time.
“This year I made a promise to myself that I was going to try and make up for what they missed,” Zech said.
Meltzer said consistently being out on the course and practicing was key in helping him improve on the mental side of his game.
“[We] played so much golf to the point where golf was just the thing we were doing in the afternoons,” he said.
Mackle, who also played on the boys’ soccer team, said the relaxed environment of practice contributed to the team’s success.
“Everyone here just loves golf, and we all love to come out here and have fun and get better everyday,” he said. “And I think our record is a testament to that.”
Mackle said he initially joined the team as an opportunity to play free golf with his brother and friends. But he eventually got caught up in the competitive aspect of the game.
“That was a major goal, just to have fun at the start,” he said. “Then when you start going to league [play], and that competitive side of you starts to kick in, you just want to start winning.”
Riccabona, who was a standout defensive back on the football team, said there’s a lot of build up to a football game because a lot more goes into it. Especially when all 22 players need to execute.
“Golf, it’s the same thing,” he said. “You need all six players to contribute…it’s all about the team, that’s what I like about this.”
The SCCAL Championship tournament took place at Pasatiempo Golf Club on Tuesday.
Riccabona said there were no expectations or goals going into the league tourney.
Instead, he’s mainly looking forward to enjoying Pasatiempo with his buddies and hopes not to get caught up in the negative mental aspect of the game.
“From now on I just want to go out and have fun,” he said. “Especially if I’m on the golf course, things really could be worse you know.”