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REGION GOLF: Patel a quick study at Mountain Falls, pursues Sunset tourney title

Pahrump Valley senior Dorian Patel wasn’t much of a golfer until a year before high school.

Before moving to Pahrump ahead of his eighth-grade year, the Oakland, Calif., native hardly knew the game. Then he moved within a few paces of the 10th hole of Mountain Falls Golf Club.

Patel and stepfather Ian Zuniga spent nearly every day on the course, and Patel eagerly soaked up golf knowledge.

“(Zuniga) is a big golf nut. Whenever he went out, he would take me with him, and he tried to teach me as much as he could,” Patel said. “He showed me as much as he could, and I think I picked it up pretty fast. And then I took off from there.”

Patel, who boasts a 74.2 stroke average, has sat atop the Southwest League standings throughout the regular season, and heads into Tuesday’s Sunset Region tournament at Siena hoping to improve on last year’s third-place finish.

Patel, who has a steady short game and poker-faced composure, has finished atop the leaderboard in four league matches, and also carded a 69 on the second day of the Pahrump Valley Invitational to finish tied for sixth.

Several solid matches and practice rounds at Mountain Falls, which hosts the second day of both region tournaments Wednesday, has Patel anticipating a strong finish as he tries to qualify for a second trip to the Class 4A state meet.

“The nicest thing about that course are the greens,” Patel said of the Trojans’ home links. “The greens are really nice and well done. They roll true, there are no bumps or divots. I really think that’s what defines the course: how well maintained the greens are.”

Patel was an All-Southern Nevada selection last year after averaging 76.1 strokes, including a two-day 161 in the state meet at Hidden Valley Country Club in Reno.

By looking at him, you’d never know if he played well that weekend, 10th-year Pahrump coach Bob Hopkins said.

“If he makes a bogey, it’s no different than if he makes a birdie or an eagle,” Hopkins said. “I’ll ask him how he’s doing, and he just says, ‘Well, I’m doing OK.’ So I don’t ever pry him. I think he likes it like that, where I just leave him alone.

“I think he’s been like that all four years. I can’t ever tell how he’s playing.”

The Sunset Region individual title race should be tightly contested, with defending champion Ben Davis of Shadow Ridge and UNLV signee Zane Thomas of Arbor View among a deep class of contenders from the Northwest League.

More familiar to Patel will be challengers Soungjae Baek and Niko Gonnella of Desert Oasis, both of whom were within two strokes of Patel in the final Southwest standings.

Patel and Baek are regular playing partners, leading to a healthy rivalry — and better friendship.

“If you watch him and Soungjae, they love to play together,” Hopkins said. “(At last week’s Southwest match) Soungjae was struggling a bit, and Dorian was telling him what he was doing wrong and what he could do better.”

Patel plans to study business at Arizona and hopes to walk on to the Wildcats’ golf team, but he’s first focused on finishing strong in his final year of high school.

“I just hope to do well at state,” Patel said. “It would be really nice to win regionals; I made a good run last year.”

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