Wednesday, May 27, 2009 | 10:57 a.m.
Yuki Kato could not help thinking about what could have been.
The Faith Lutheran junior golfer dominated the 3A classification all spring, golfing with a chip on his shoulder from the way his season ended last year in leading the Crusaders to the state title last week.
Kato, like he has done all season, captured medalist honors at state with a 3-under-par 139 during the two-day event at the par-71, 6,302-yard Spring Creek Golf Course.
The effort helped Faith Lutheran edge Winnemucca’s Lowry High by three strokes for its second team title in three years.
It’s a title Kato feels Faith Lutheran should have also won last year. But a freak accident during conditioning drills in his physical education class led to a nasty fall and a season-ending broken collarbone.
So, with Kato shelved from the injury, the Crusaders took fourth.
Using the disappointment from the way last year ended, Kato earned medalist honors in nine of the 10 events he played in this spring.
Quite simply, Kato’s opponents were playing for second place each tournament.
“Golf is life for Yuki,” said Bret Walter, Faith Lutheran’s athletic director and assistant golf coach. “He is just a tough golfer. He can hit any shot that needs to be hit.”
Kato coasted to the individual state title with a seven-stroke victory against Yerington High’s Vince Arrighi.
It was the perfect ending to a special season — even if it was one year late.
“I worked hard to come back strong,” Kato said. “Winning as a team was more important (than individually) because everyone can share in the accomplishment.”
Kato also made amends for his lone non-medalist performance of the season. Ryan Baeza of Mesquite’s Virgin Valley High, who beat Kato during a 3A Southern League match at Boulder City Municipal Golf Course, finished 19 strokes back.
“He was obviously very hungry to get back to where he was last year,” Walter said.
Kato plans to ride the momentum from his dominating spring into the summer season. He’s one of the top junior golfers in town and will test his skills in several tournaments against golfers from out of state.
He’s already received interest from Xavier, Hawaii and Wisconsin and knows his scores on the competitive American Junior Golf Association circuit this summer will attract more recruiters.
If he continues to golf with the same motivation he had this spring, it could be an equally memorable summer.