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REGION GOLF: Mustangs’ unflappable Davis goes after third Sunset title

Most of the time, it’s difficult to tell whether Shadow Ridge boys golfer Ben Davis is shooting a good round or struggling to break 80.

There is one dead giveaway, however.

“If I’m playing super good,” Davis said, “I’ll be singing songs to myself and playing in my head.”

Davis, a UNLV recruit, hopes he has plenty to sing about Monday when he begins his quest for his third Sunset Region title.

The tournament opens at 10 a.m. at Primm Valley Golf Club’s Lakes Course, along with the Sunrise and Division I-A Southern Region tournaments. All three tournaments conclude Tuesday at Wildhorse Golf Club.

“Ben is pretty chill,” Mustangs coach Steven Huesch. “It’s hard to get a read on him, even as a coach. I pull up and I’m like, ‘Hey Ben, how’s it going?’ Same reaction all the time. He could be 10-over, he could be 5-under. The other boys, I can tell from a mile away.”

Davis, who took his first lesson at age 2 and played in his first tournament when he was 3 — “I didn’t take dead last,” he joked — wasn’t always so even-keeled on the course. But after years of participating in American Junior Golf Association events, Davis eventually learned not to allow a bad shot or hole affect the rest of his round.

That mental strength is now a source of pride for Davis, and he and Huesch believe it’s what separates him from most high school golfers.

“There’s not much that bothers him,” Huesch said. “You want to see other people trying, and if he’s making it look easy and I’m over here lipping putts and trailing him by two strokes and he’s over there zip-a-dee-doo-dahing, it takes you out of your game.”

Davis won the Sunset Region tournament as a freshman and sophomore, but finished third last year, three shots behind medalist Brandon Bauman of Palo Verde. A week later, Davis tied for seventh at the Division I state tournament.

“Last year, I didn’t play well at state. And regionals, I played well, I just couldn’t make any putts,” Davis said. “I never had a round that really clicked last year.”

In July, Davis tied for 18th at the Junior World Golf Championships at Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla, Calif., finishing 7-over-par after four rounds at the famed South Course. Davis was recruited by several schools and made official visits to Arizona, Texas Christian and UNR before signing with the hometown Rebels in November.

“We feel Ben’s game has come a long way in the last year,” UNLV Dwaine Knight said then. “He is a big, strong young man and has good upside for the future.”

Davis is part of a deep field in the Sunset tournament, and his foursome for the first round features Bauman, a UC Santa Barbara recruit, Arbor View’s Sam Dickey and Frank Frisbee of Bishop Gorman. Davis fired a 2-under 70 at Siena on Wednesday in the final Northwest League match and enters brimming with confidence.

“I’d be disappointed if I didn’t win regionals and state,” Davis said. “I just need to stay focused on every shot I hit and play my best. Any of those guys can shoot a 64 … so I just have to be on top of my game.”

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