Crusader boys golf crushes state title, goes back-to-back
Starting last summer, the texts started trickling to Jay Minsker's phone, first regularly, then rapidly.
Every weekend from late May through August, Andrew Reinhardt's dad would alert Minsker on the Jesuit boys golf team's whereabouts on the Oregon Junior Golf Association, highlighting the preamble to a Class 6A state championship. From Medford to Bend to Portland, Reinhardt, Johnny Ward, Samir Dutta, Brody Marconi and Austin Boyle scoured the state, seeking the best competition, going toe-to-toe against each other and the top courses Oregon has to offer.
Minsker could sense that the Crusader squad coming back to him this spring was loaded. Not only were those young Crusaders partaking in the tour, but they were tearing it up. How good, though, even the veteran head coach wasn't so sure about. After all, Jesuit lost two studs off the 2017 6A state title team in Nick Timm and Daniel Terrell. Dutta was the only returning senior and inexperience can be a bear.
Turns out Jesuit was even more gifted than Minsker surmised.
The Crusaders won the Metro League again and then crushed state, beating second-place Mountainside by an incredible 58 strokes with a two-day total of 595 at Emerald Valley Golf Club in Creswell on Monday and Tuesday. The top-five leaderboard was almost all green and gold as Marconi and Reinhardt tied for second (148), Ward finished fourth (149) and Dutta took fifth (150) in a dominant showing that clinched the Crusaders' second consecutive state crown.
"The kids were head and shoulders above anybody else in the state because of the work they put in in the off-season," Minsker said. "I'm so proud of them. They're great, great kids from great families. I'm so happy for them. They're the ones who put in the work and deserve all the credit."
Jesuit is a bunch of golf-loving junkies. They consume the game in copious quantities, never getting enough, always perfecting their craft, perpetually finding ways to improve, to strengthen their strengths and address their deficiencies. It's that love of the game that pushed the Crusaders to such a whopping team victory at state.
"These kids have the physical tools that I just shake my head at," Minsker said. "They make shots and hit balls that make you go 'Oh my gosh.' They have absolutely no fear and they love the game of golf. They don't worry about where the swimming pool is or what tomorrow's plans are. They want to play golf and that's what makes them so good. They put the time in and develop themselves."
The Crusaders were a united bunch, too, not solely invested in their own individual success. Dutta, who was tutored by the likes of Terrell and Timm in the ways of team bonding before him, set the example. He directed the young Jesuit squad on everything from course attire to practice outings to tee times, group dinners and everything in between. All that time together brought this group closer. They cared about one another's games and bought into the team concept, helping each other with their short games, asking one another for tips on putting instead of their coaches — something that's not always natural with such talented golfers.
"This team probably has the best cohesiveness of any team I've had in 22 years," Minsker said. "They discussed how they were going to play the course, what clubs they were going to hit, what holes they could go after and get birdies. These kids just got along so well together and really enjoyed being around each other."
What Timm and Terrell triggered last year just might be the start of extended Crusader dynasty. With two state titles already, Ward, Marconi, Boyle, Reinhardt are scheduled to return along with a number of rising sophomores waiting in the wings and any incoming freshmen that want to hop aboard.
"I have the best high school coaching job in the state of Oregon," Minsker said. "That's because of the parents, the Jesuit community, the players I have and will have in the future. The kids know what they have to do and they put the time in. It pays off in the long run."
Mountainside will certainly be heard over the next handful of years. Sophomore Mateo Fuenmayor has state medalist-like talent and placed 14th at state. Sophomore Danny Hext was the Mavericks' top finisher, taking sixth with a pair of 77s. Reinforcements are coming to Mountainside as well, but they'll have to deal with a deep, seasoned, ever-improving Crusader group that will be the favorite to three-peat.
"We could be a team to be reckoned with for the next four or five years," Minsker said. "Mountainside is going to be really good. All of their kids are going to be juniors and sophomores. Their coach is a good guy who's developing their playing ability. All they're going to do is get better and that's great. I'm glad we have someone like them in our conference every week."
Beaverton junior Curtis Posner tied for 14th overall with a 159 and Southridge sophomore Alex Roberts took 19th overall with a 160. Sunset sophomore Matteo Polla and Westview junior Jonathan Lu tied for 32nd place with 166 apiece. Sunset placed 12th overall as a team.