Coronado boys golf coach Joe Sawaia has a problem.
But it’s not one he’s looking to solve anytime soon.
Sawaia’s Cougars, the defending Class 4A state champions, are loaded with a roster that includes defending individual champion A.J. McInerney, 2008 champ Tad Darland and four other golfers who average in the low- to mid-70s. It leaves Sawaia with the task of sitting down golfers who might be in the top three on many other teams.
“Having the depth obviously is a good problem to have,” he said. “We beat our brains out every week qualifying for every match, and we had a 72-hole qualifier for our last spot to get to (the Sunrise Region meet).”
Coronado hopes that depth is enough to repeat as state champion when the Class 4A state meet tees off today at Hidden Valley Country Club in Reno.
The competition has rewarded Coronado with huge dividends, with other golfers such as Kenden Slattery (77.4 average) and Christian Pate (75.7) leading the way on occasions during the year. That, along with the UNLV-bound McInerney and San Diego State-signee Darland, leaves little room for golfers who would be top talent elsewhere, but are merely average at Coronado.
Kabir Nanar, who averaged 70.0 strokes during the season that included a 65 in a Southeast League match March 30, missed a spot in the Cougars’ top six after a practice qualifier before the Sunrise Region meet. No. 8 golfer Bradley Keyer averaged 77.7 and shared medalist honors with Darland in a nine-hole match on March 17, but also couldn’t qualify for regionals.
“It’s fun for the ones that qualify, but I have three really good players sitting at home right now,” Sawaia said. “That’s the nature of golf: You can only have six playing, and you go from there.”
That doesn’t make Coronado’s goal any different. McInerney, Darland and Slattery carry with them memories of 2009, when the favored Cougars went to Reno and shot a two-day, 42-over-par 762 before falling to Spanish Springs.
“The goal all year has been to win a state championship,” McInerney said. “That’s what we’re going to try to do.”
Hidden Valley’s greens are difficult to decipher, and that combined with a projected 56-degree high today and possible rain showers Tuesday may leave the Cougars’ at a disadvantage to North qualifiers McQueen and Reno. Also, Sunset champion Palo Verde leans on the experience of five straight region titles, and Sunrise runner-up Foothill boasts two-time individual region champ Taylor Montgomery and a team that has risen to challenge Coronado’s reign atop the Southeast League.
“Any time you travel, there’s going to be some adversity, whether it be not sleeping in your own bed, the weather or a different golf course,” Sawaia said.
“It’s going to be a challenge, but we’re looking forward to representing the South and trying to defend.”