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Valley / Ventura County Sports | SPRING SPORTS NOTEBOOK

Freshman Shooting to the Top

April 03, 1999

John Pehar, boys' golf coach at Crescenta Valley High, heard rumors about a hot-shooting freshman golfer at the school.

But he had no idea how good Michael Park was until he saw him play.

"I'd heard the kids talking about him," Pehar said. "But Michael was much better than I expected."

Park has been the Falcons' No. 1 player in 10 of 11 matches this season, leading a relatively inexperienced team to an 8-3 record.

Park and sophomore Nathan Soule each shot three-over-par 39 over nine holes in a 210-231 victory over Temple City at Brookside Golf Course No. 2 in Pasadena on Wednesday.

That came two days after Park shot a one-over-par 36 at Santa Anita Golf Course in Arcadia on Monday.

"He's not a long driver," Pehar said of Park. "But a big part of the game is keeping [the ball] in play. And everything he hits is right down the middle."

Park is proficient with any club from a five-iron to a sand wedge.

"He's very, very good when it comes to using those clubs and he's 160 to 50 yards from the green," Pehar said.

"He has the ability to put the ball right where he wants to put it in those situations. If the pin is on an uphill lie, he'll put the ball on the front of the green so he has an uphill putt."

On the golf course, Park is all business. But off it, he's just another 15-year-old, according to Pehar.

"He's a typical freshman," Pehar said.

*

Chris McNicoll of Crespi High is glad to be working on his tennis game again.

He'll try not to put his back into it, though.

McNicoll, a sophomore who can play singles and doubles, on Thursday played his first match of the season for the Celts after sitting out nearly six weeks because of a broken vertebra in his lower back.

"I just thought it was a muscle strain at first," McNicoll said. "I was in the middle of playing a set during our fifth practice, and I couldn't bend at all. I told my coach to stretch me out a little, but I could barely walk."

And he couldn't play tennis.

McNicoll spent recent weeks resting and rehabilitating his back by undergoing physical therapy three times a week. The goal was to strengthen the muscles surrounding the damaged vertebra and avoid surgery.

Although McNicoll has been cleared to play, a big part of his game must change.

"The doctors think my serve was what did it," McNicoll said of his injury. "On my second serve, I would always lean back really far . . . to put more topspin on it."

McNicoll, who has played tennis for five years, must maintain proper posture and avoid straining for shots.

"I just started practicing this week, but I try to keep my back as straight as possible and keep my [service] toss in front of me, so I don't lean back," he said.

"I'm a little nervous and cautious with my strokes right now because I don't want to re-injure it."

Despite his caution, McNicoll appeared fit Thursday, when he played No. 3 doubles with Ray Purwadihardja. They were the only Crespi players to record a three-set sweep in the Celts' 12-6 loss to Camarillo.

"It was real nice to be back," McNicoll said. "I had a good time. But it was hard. I caught the ball on my toss a couple of times and had to remind myself to take it easy."

*

What spring break?

Many of the best high school tennis players in the region have important matches next week.

Phillip Sheng of Thousand Oaks and Nick Weiss of Calabasas are among the top players in the boys' 18 division of the Easter Bowl Junior Championships that began Friday and will run through next Saturday at Grenelefe Golf and Tennis Resort in Grenelefe, Fla.

Sheng and Weiss are among 60 players, including 26 who are seeded in their divisions, from Southern California competing in the tournament, which features 480 players from 40 states.

Travis Rettenmaier, 15, of Camarillo, ranked 15th nationally in boys' 16s, is unseeded in the tournament. He will compete in the boys' 18s division with Sheng, 16, who is ranked 11th nationally in boys' 16s, and Weiss, 17, ranked 17th in boys' 16s.

Competing in the boys' 16s division are freshman Stephen Amritraj of Crespi, sophomore Jesse Ferlianto of Hart, Lester Cook IV of Woodland Hills, and Robert Yim of Glendale, who boasts a No. 7 national ranking in boys 14s.

Freshman Adrian Mardyks of Rio Mesa is playing with Cook in boys' 16 doubles.

Fifth-seeded Justin Montgomery of Oxnard is ranked seventh nationally in boys' 14s.

Maureen Diaz of Glendale and Jieun Jacobs, formerly of Hart, are competing in the girls' 18 division, along with Tiffany Brymer, who won the Southern Section championship last December while at Rio Mesa.

Sophomore Jenny Munroe of Hart will play in the girls' 16 division, and Erica Sauer of Somis is seeded ninth in the 14 division.

*

The Rio Mesa boys' tennis team can finally go home again.

But the Spartans might not want to, considering the condition of their home courts.

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