Head over to the Palo Alto Municipal Golf Course on a weekday afternoon and you will see some of the best high school golfers in the city working on their drives and perfecting their putts. Today, these boys will face off against each other representing their respective schools, as the Palo Alto High School boys’ golf team (11-0) takes on its crosstown rival Gunn High School (10-1) in San Jose.
Practicing on the same course and living in the same community as the Gunn players, the Paly team sees the matchup as not just a battle for first place in league, but for bragging rights: the Paly boys have earned an undefeated record, winning all 10 of their matches thus far, while the Gunn golfers’ only loss came on March 25 when they fell to the Vikings, 187-179.
Paly junior John Knowles acknowledged the heightened level of personal pride involved in competing against the team’s crosstown rival.
“The upcoming Gunn match doesn’t have any significant playoff importance, but it’s more of a pride thing, as we practice at the same place as the Gunn team,” Knowles said. “In addition, it is always nice to finish undefeated and so that will be an added motivation.”
One of Paly’s major strengths lies in its depth, sophomore Henry Gordon said.
“We have a very deep team, so if our top players struggle one day, our lower ranked players can still contend with other top players from other teams,” Gordon said.
Knowles agreed that the team’s overall talent gives it an edge over its opponent.
“We have 10 solid guys who have the ability to play very well,” Knowles said. “In the matches, we all have a shot to win medalist or get the low score, so I think we are driven to not only beat the other team, but beat the guys on our team as well.”
While their sheer talent is undeniable, a secret to the Vikings’ success may lie in their team chemistry, according to Knowles.
“As far as I know, everyone on the team likes everyone else, and I personally enjoy spending time with the team,” Knowles said. “I’m not sure how much this contributes to our success, but it makes matches more enjoyable when you like spending time with the teammate you’re playing with.”
The Vikings also rely on their teammates to push each other and keep each other focused and motivated, according to Paly junior Alex Hwang.
“I think having some sort of competition for playing the top spots on the team motivates us to give more effort, especially in matches that we may beat the opponent by a large margin in,” Hwang said. “To some extent, there’s more competition between members of our team to post a low score than with the other team.”
Most recently, the Vikings defeated the Homestead Mustangs, 218-195, yesterday to improve to an 11-0 record. Paly plans to maintain its perfect record by bringing its competitive attitude into the rematch with Gunn this afternoon.
“I think we’re all confident in our ability to beat Gunn,” Hwang said. “Having confidence in the others members of the team plays a big role in our individual confidence and not making us too nervous.”
The Vikings tee off against the Titans at 3 p.m. today at the Santa Teresa Golf Club in San Jose.
Jared Schwartz contributed to this story.