Mark Cummins is in his 11th season as the Live Oak High boys golf coach, and this has been one of his most enjoyable teams yet.
Sure, it helped that the Acorns finished the regular-season 12-4 overall and 8-2 in the Blossom Valley League’s Santa Teresa Division. But it’s the overall temperament of the boys and their enthusiasm for the game that has made this season special.
“We have a great group of players,” Cummins said. “They’ve improved pretty much every match and it’s been a pleasure coaching these boys.”
Junior Ryan Murray is the team’s No. 1 player and ranked No. 5 in the entire league, behind four golfers from the BVAL’s upper Mount Hamilton Division. Murray has been the medalist in most of the team’s matches, scoring anywhere in the upper 30s to low 40s over a nine-hole round.
Murray looks to be the team’s first Central Coast Section individual qualifier since Paul Huber made it in 2019. In fact, Murray would be only the Acorns’ second section qualifier in the last 10 years should he make it. That will be determined on May 3 in the Blossom Valley League Finals at Santa Teresa Golf Course, which is in the league’s regular rotation of playing sites during the dual meet season.
“If Ryan plays his game, he should be right there to qualify for CCS,” Cummins said. “He knows the course well and should play well. He’s consistently been our best player and he’s just a really good player.”
Cummins said Murray consistently drives the ball 275-300 yards off the tee and has been solid in every phase of the game. He’s often paired with senior Gus Giba, who is the team’s No. 4 or 5 scorer. However, the two work well together in part because they are also teammates on the basketball team.
This past season on the hardwood, Giba was named Santa Teresa East Division MVP, a testament to his spectacular play. Giba also has a powerful influence on the golf team, though in a different way.
“The kids really look up to Gus,” said Cummins, who spent 25 years as Live Oak’s baseball coach before switching to coaching the boys golf and girls tennis squads. “He’s the inspirational leader of the team. He doesn’t have the lowest scores, but is always working hard, is very competitive and always encourages others. He’s one of the best kids I’ve ever coached in my 36 years of coaching. Just a genuine, nice kid, on and off the course.”
The Acorns are having a strong season thanks in part to senior Achint Aju and sophomore Felix Huber, the Nos. 2 and 3 scoring players in the lineup, respectively. Aju is a Lynbrook-transfer who has earned the nickname “smooth” for his easy, free flowing swing.
Felix Huber is a foreign-exchange student from Germany and the younger brother of Paul Huber. When Aju and Huber showed up for preseason practice, Cummins knew they would be a huge boost to the team.
“We were very fortunate we had a couple of newcomers we weren’t expecting to be here,” he said. “Coming into the season, we didn’t know much about them or how good they would be, so I’m very pleased because they’ve added a lot of quality depth to the team.”
Junior Isaiah Gonzalez and sophomore Logan Anglikowski have also been key in the team’s success. Gonzalez improves every year and Anglikowski is in his first season with the team with his best sport being hockey, Cummins said.
“Isaiah and Logan have really given us a lot of depth and shown improvement,” Cummins said. “You can’t ask for much more than that.”
Cole Read, Owen Stewart, Ben Ellingson and Ben Ledwith round out the varsity team. The Acorns started the season 0-3 but rebounded nicely, beating a couple of non-league opponents like San Benito High along the way.
“The boys have been highly resilient and continue to improve,” Cummins said.
Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]