Roughly six weeks after reaching the summit of state golf, Gaither sophomore Jimmy Stanger has traded a proverbial mountaintop for a literal one. Stanger, winner of the 13-15 age division of the FSGA Junior Boys Championship in early July, is finishing a family golf vacation in Utah’s ski country. Upon returning home, he’ll embark on another state title quest, this of the Class 2A variety. The Times caught up with Stanger, who is homeschooled, by phone recently to discuss (among other things) the 2010 season.
So you’re in Utah right now?
Basically, this house we share is right on a golf course. It’s like golf heaven up here. We’re basically on a 36-hole links course up here on the mountain. … One’s just kind of a regular 18-hole golf course with hills, and the other one’s really nice, on the other side of the valley. I know it’s ranked in the top 50 of the private courses in America (by Golfweek).
What are your most vivid memories of the Junior Boys Championship?
I remember basically every 100-yard shot in, I put it right next to the hole and had tap in. Those greens (at Orlando’s Grand Cypress Golf Club) were really tough and if you missed a green it was really tough up and down.
How did you celebrate?
I think I went home and took a nap. … It was very hot, very windy.
What do you remember from last season’s 2A region tournament (Stanger shot 6-over 77 and Gaither finished fourth)?
I remember it was pretty windy, good temperatures but pretty windy. It was a tough, narrow course but a course I could’ve taken advantage of. One thing I remember I was hooking my irons.
Fill in this blank: Jimmy Stanger is hard to beat when his __ is working.
My putting, definitely. I would say my short game actually. I’ve had a lot of games when my iron game is not on. But if my putting’s good, any putt within 10 to 15 feet I’ll knock in.
What’s your first conscious memory of golf?
It was out at Avila (where Stanger lives). I think I was 4 or 5 years old. I guess I didn’t know what the range was because I hit the ball right into the house behind us. I didn’t break a window, but that was my first conscious memory. I remember my dad getting so mad at me.
How good can your team be?
We’ll do fine in nine-hole matches, I’m not worried about that. But if we can just keep it together mentally for 18 holes, I think we’ll be all right.
Preseason top five
1. Gaither: The Cowboys, who came within seven strokes of reaching last season’s 2A state tournament, get a chance to redeem themselves with essentially the same team.
2. Wharton: The Wildcats return four of their top five scorers, led by 2A, Region 4 champ Paul Demick, from a district runnerup squad.
3. King: Led by seniors Drew Kloppenburg and Hunter McPhillips, the Lions will field one of their deepest teams in years. The top six players are all capable of nine-hole scores in the 30s.
4. Plant: Three lettermen, including strong junior Zach Johnson, return to the defending 2A, District 10 champs. Coach Tom Johnson also is high on Berkeley Prep transfer Bradley White.
5. Jesuit: The Tigers return four of their top five players from a Class A district title team that missed the state tournament by three strokes.
Five players to watch
Josh Black, Sr., Gaither: When focused, can play with anyone around
Gary Buffington, Sr., Chamberlain: 2A District 10 champ has funky shoes and formidable game
Paul Demick, Sr., Wharton: County’s lone male state qualifier in 2009.
Zach Johnson, Jr., Plant: 2A, District 10 runnerup will lead deep Panthers team
Jimmy Stanger, So., Gaither: Won 13-15 age division of FSGA Boys Junior Championship