Parth Verma wasn’t going to leave it to a tiebreaker this time.
So the El Diamante High junior fired a 1-over 73 to place sixth at the Central Section individual boys golf championships Tuesday at River Island Country Club, becoming one of nine first-time qualifiers for the CIF Southern California Regional not associated with an advancing team.
“I wanted to make it this year,” Verma said. “I knew I had to play better.”
Verma shot a 5-over 77 last year at Madera’s Riverbend Golf Course to finish in an 11-way tie for the final six qualifying spots into the regional. He was eliminated on the third tiebreaker criteria.
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This time, Verma was 3 over through 13 holes but closed with two birdies and three pars to become one of seven players to shoot 73, well within the safe zone to qualify for the regional set for May 28 at Brookside Golf Club in Pasadena. Four players finished at 75, with Tulare’s Adrian Gonzalez failing to advance on a tiebreaker.
Verma joins Hanford’s Patrick Nelson (73), Clovis North’s Anthony Goergouses (73), Buchanan’s Ian Oehlschlaeger (73), Hanford’s Lane Pulliam (73), Buchanan’s Evan Peterson (74), Clovis’ Cody Avila (75), Liberty-Bakersfield’s Dylan Flajnik (75) and Tehachapi’s Blake Keesy (75) as first-time regional qualifiers.
“I didn’t expect this, which is probably why I played good,” Nelson said. “It means a lot to do this in my senior year. I’m glad I got this far.”
Centennial’s Tyler Burnes won the section title with a 4-under 68. Stockdale’s Jared Kinoshita, who made a hole-in-one on No. 9, was second at 1-under 71, and Clovis West’s Peter Kuest was third at 72.
“I was hitting it good and making putts early,” said Kuest, who had already qualified for the regional as a member of Clovis West’s Division-I championship team. “It was important to shoot well here. Then you are building up to shoot well at SoCals.”
Among the first-time qualifiers, Oehlschlaeger is a freshman. He was even through nine holes before finishing 1over.
“This is a big opportunity for me, especially as a freshman,” Oehlschlaeger said. “I’ve just got to keep playing my game.”
Pulliam and Avila are each in the regional field after failing to qualify last season at this tournament.
Pulliam almost had to play in his walking shoes after forgetting his golf cleats at home. Luckily, Nelson’s father picked them up and arrived just before tee-off.
“It’s always good to move on to the next stage,” Pulliam said. “I felt like I had to get my feet in the water. Now, I just need to keep playing good.”
Avila shot 75 or better for the fourth straight tournament after averaging 78 during the regular season.
“I’m starting to get my momentum back and playing well,” Avila said. “It’s coming together.”
Fresno Christian’s Michael Cliff is the other individual qualifier, set to make his second trip to the regional after placing 12th with a 74.
Tyler Gardner of Clovis West placed fourth with a 73 and Michael Jura of section runner-up Bullard was seventh with a 73. Both had already qualified for the regional with their teams.
Last year’s section champion, Stockdale’s Blake Bourelle, failed to advance with a 76.