As Stockdale's boys golf team congregated to compare scores and trade barbs after Tuesday's Southwest Yosemite League mini-tournament at The Links at RiverLakes Ranch, two things became abundantly clear.
(1) This team doesn't have a dominant player.
(2) That doesn't matter, because it has a bunch of really good ones.
Stockdale shot a 388 to win its third consecutive SWYL mini-tournament, beating second-place Liberty (418) and third-place Frontier (422) with ease.
"We've got that depth this year," Mustangs coach Jim Keene said, "and we've got a bunch of leaders. This is the first time in my 10 years that we've had five seniors. We've had seven guys shoot a round in the 70s this year."
This time, the top two players in name -- Dalton Weaver and Jake Haddad -- shot 81 and 83 respectively, making it look like Stockdale might actually be vulnerable. Liberty's top two players, Trevor Stan (75) and Warren Miller (76) and the Frontier duo of Knooer Baker (77) and Brad Chamberlain (83) had those two teams in front.
But from that point, each Stockdale player came in with a score much better than his counterpart from any other team.
At No. 3, Dean McBride shot 75 after chipping in on No. 16 and hitting an approach shot from 100 yards to within a foot for another birdie on No. 17.
"If we see each other out there on the fairways, we're always asking what the other guy's score is," McBride said. "We'll say, 'Keep it up, I'm one behind you and I'm going to catch you.'"
At No. 4, Mitchell Jackson navigated a difficult up-and-down at the 18th green to shoot 76.
At No. 5, Amil Shah shot 81 despite an 8 on No. 18, and at No. 6, Jared Kinoshita shot 75, tied for the low score of the day.
"Amongst themselves, they're so competitive," Keene said, gesturing toward his players near the clubhouse.
"Look at them, they've already started the smack talk. It's all good, though. They're used to the competition and it makes them all better."
The rest of the league hopes that will hold true for everyone. There is no golfer in the league who can consistently shoot in the 60s -- no Bhavik Patel (Bakersfield High, now playing on the Web.com Tour), no Pete Fernandez (Stockdale, UC Irvine), no Manav Shah (Centennial, UCLA) or Bryce Keene (Stockdale, Navy).
But there are a dozen players who can consistently shoot in the 70s, making for a spread-out talent pool and six competitive teams.
"Konner Baker stepped up and played well today; sometimes it's Tyler Whitehead (of Bakersfield) or somebody else," Liberty coach Kirk Bowyer said. "From a competition standpoint, it's great. The kids know they have to play their best, and that all-league plaque at the end of the year is really going to mean something."
But the team chase is looking decidely one-sided. Stockdale has won all three mini-tournaments by double-digit stroke margins and hosts next week at Seven Oaks Country Club. After that, there are only two tournaments left before the Central Section South Area championships. From there, the top two Division I teams advance to the section championships in Porterville.
Once there, Stockdale can unleash a lineup without a star -- but with as much depth as anybody.
"That's what we're striving for," said Keene, whose team's best performance this year was 385. "This is the most fun group I've ever had. We have great camaraderie, and they've all shown the ability to work."