Mark Hopson, whose high school coaching career was spawned in a football environment, had some hopes that Redlands High School’s golf season could be salvaged in some way. “I know it’s selfish,” he said. “The CIF has to worry about every sport … be fair to everyone. But golf is that one sport that you can pick up without worrying about (social distancing).”
Half-kidding, perhaps, but just another coach beaten down by the worldwide pandemic.
Like all other sports and activities struck down by possible COVID-19 contamination, the Terrier golf team — ninth place in last year’s CIF Eastern Division championship — was on track to be even better in 2020.
Some new faces had emerged, including Hopson’s own son, Kamron, who had surged to be the team’s No. 1 as a freshman this past spring.
Hopson, the coach, jokes,
“I’m just the guy that makes out the lineup card. Those guys do everything else.”
Before the interruption, Redlands had just three events under its belt — a pair of 9-hole dual wins over Riverside Poly, plus a sixth place finish in the 17-team Challenge Cup won by Temecula Great Oak — before the season was halted on March 15.
Kamron Hopson might’ve been playing No. 1, but there was plenty of firepower chasing down that spot.
The Hartling Bros., Brendan and Cameron, were among those that could play for that top spot. Throw in returning players like Nogwa Smith and Curren Oakes.
Marshall Berry, a transfer from Redlands East Valley, has shot some good scores. Jalen Wee, another freshman, added depth to the Terriers’ lineup.
Those three — Berry, Wee and Hopson — definitely strengthened Redlands’ squad from a year ago.
He noted that 450 Redlands posted at CIF Western Division finals last year, topped by Walnut High’s 370, trailed by Diamond Bar at 375. Hopson seemed disappointed with his own team’s high scores at Mountain Meadows Golf Club in La Verne.
Cam Hartling’s 78 was low for the Terriers, followed by his brother’s round of 85.
Hopson chuckled, saying, “I’ve been around coaches from some of those great teams. They get upset when one of their best players shoots a 75. To win CIF, everyone’s got to shoot 75, or better.”
That’s the thing about this year’s Terrier squad, which runs about eight players deep.
“We’ve got some guys that can shoot in the 60s,” said Hopson. “The thing is, they all have to do it on the same day.”
Not much is learned from a nine-hole match, which is standard play during the season. Once Citrus Belt League tournament play (two rounds, 18 holes each) play and, eventually, CIF play rolls around, it’s an 18-hole atmosphere.
Here’s how it works: League champions advance to division play. The top two teams out of division play advance to the Southern California Golf Association championships — the elite of high school golf.
It’s like CIF Masters in wrestling or track & field.
You could compare that to a CIF Southern California football or basketball regional tournament.
SCGA teams are potent.
It’s what Redlands is shooting for, says Hopson. In a realistic moment, or two, he says, “We’re a long way from being there.”
For openers, coronavirus issues have blocked any team’s hopes. In Redlands’ case, all of this season’s team members will return next spring.
On a sad note, Hopson said, “Redlands (Country Club) is shut down. The kids can’t even practice.”
In the absence of a CIF-Southern Section Top 10 poll — for some reason, the Section will offer up rankings in most other sports — it’s hard to determine which teams are trending among the best each spring.
It’s hard, of course, since every high school team plays on different courses. Hard to rank, that is.
Coaches — Hopson among them — know which teams are the most dangerous.
Temecula Great Oak, for instance, won the Challenge Cup. Redlands sat in sixth place at 424, quite a few behind GO’s 389 winning total.
“I’d love to get them on our schedule,” said Hopson. “I’d love to get all those Southwestern League teams on the schedule. All those teams out in the desert like Palm Desert, too.”
Hopson is well aware just who Jack Stewart is, too. Stewart is the 73-year-old University of Redlands’ women’s coach — long since retired as Palm Desert High’s coach — who has the Lady Bulldogs on track to become the nation’s next small college powerhouse.
Such scheduling could lift the Terriers’ competitive fortunes.
In a compelling moment, Hopson felt inspired to call out the team’s grade point average, which is 3.17.
“Yeah,” he says, “I might be the only one (with a college degree) out there, but that won’t last long.”