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Venice High Gondos Repeat as City Golf Champions

Yamaguchi and Reyes each card a 71 to lead Venice High to its third section title in four seasons.

The Venice High School boys golf team won its second consecutive CIF Los Angeles City Section championship on Monday with a five-player total score of 380 on the par 72 Wilson Golf Course at Griffith Park.

Paced by 1-under-par 71s from senior Clayton Yamaguchi, who finished second overall after a card-off, and junior Marc Reyes (fourth overall in a card-off), the Gondoliers captured their third City crown in four years and earned their fourth straight trip to the Southern California Regionals next Thursday at Brookside Golf Course in Pasadena.

The team included five seniors: Yamaguchi, who tied for fifth at the state finals last spring and will continue his golf career at UC San Diego; Kevin Cullen, who will play for Saint Martin's University in Lacey, Wash. next year; Ryan Miyamoto (UC San Diego); Trey Woods (still undecided, but possibly El Camino College) and Derek Tsukahira (Santa Clara).

Dustin Watanabe of Taft won the individual title with a 69 but the Gondoliers, guided by new coach Kevin Behrendt, had three players finish in the top 8. Cullen shot a 78, Miyamoto shot 77, Tsukahira shot 83 and Woods shot a 91. Only a team's five best scores are counted.

Granada Hills finished second at 399 and, for the second straight season, will join the Gondoliers at the regionals. The top three teams advance and top six individuals to the state championships at San Gabriel Country Club on June 6.  

Although they eventually won by a comfortable 19-stroke margin, the Gondoliers led by only two strokes heading into the back nine. 

"I basically just told them to go out and shoot the lowest score that you can," Behrendt said. "I was thinking 385 or 390 would be good enough to win, but you just never know."

The tournament was reduced from two rounds to one last season as a result of budget cuts and the Gondoliers shot 404 to beat runner-up Granada Hills by 18 strokes, also on the Wilson Course, in Coach Myra Einberg's last season. Venice won the team title in 2009 and was runner-up to El Camino Real in 2010.

"Myra is a legend here and really built the program so I can't take any of the credit, but the boys put in quite a bit of work practicing at Penmar and on the driving range at Westchester," Behrendt said. "These are local kids who grew up playing public courses. It shows the dedication of the boys and the support we get from the school."

Yamaguchi's 1-under was five strokes better than his score at last year's City finals, when he was fifth. Miyamoto and Cullen each shaved three shots off of last year's scores.

Behrendt said the next goal is for the team to reach the state finals, which would be a first for the school. "I think several players can do it but they all would rather go as a team and that's what they're shooting for."

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