Palo Alto sophomore Ahmed Ali will be making his third trip in as many weeks to the Monterey Peninsula on Monday to compete at the NCGA/CIF NorCal Golf Championships at Corral de Tierra Golf Course in Salinas.
Unlike the past two trips, however, Ali will be traveling without his Paly teammates.
That scenario was created Tuesday when the Vikings finished eighth out of eight teams at the Central Coast Section Championships at Rancho Canada (West) Golf Course in Carmel Valley.
"The guys were very serious this season to play well and keep advancing to states," said Paly coach Doyle Knight. "I'm not sure if they put to much pressure on themselves after playing so well last week or what."
Last week at one of two section regionals, Paly shot 366 as a team and finished first. Had the Vikings duplicated that effort on the same course Tuesday, they would have tied for second with Harker and advanced to NorCals.
Instead, Palo Alto struggled to a 389 score, trailing seventh-place Menlo School (384). The top three finishers -- Bellarmine (355), Harker (366) and Palma (371) -- all qualified for NorCals. Also advancing were the top four individuals not on a qualifying team.
Ali and Pinewood's John Foley were among that elite foursome. Foley shot a 4-under 67 and finished in a tie for second as Bellarmine's Eddy Lai shot a sizzling 6-under 65. Ali finished in a six-way tie for fifth with an even-par 71.
Ali, however, was left in a playoff with Mitty's Daniel Kim and Brian Ma. Ali eventually made a seven-foot par putt to win the fourth extra hole and become the first Paly golfer in 20 years to qualify for NorCals.
Gunn's Andy Zhou, competing as an individual along with Foley, carded a solid 2-over 73 to finish tied for 17th. Ali, however, was the final qualifier.
Menlo was led by Max Ting and William Hsieh, each of who shooting 75. Teammate Charlie Hsieh checked in with a 77 and teammate Seth Pope shot 78, as did Palo Alto senior Henry Hughes.
Rohin Chandra wrapped up Menlo's five-man team with a 79. Griffin Gelbach of Sacred Heart Prep, another individual, shot 80. Paly's Sergi Mata, Joonsung Ha and Henry Gordon shot 80, as well, as none were close to their regional efforts.
"I'm frustrated that we didn't play well," Knight said. "I just don't understand how all, except one, played terrible.
"I've told them as long as they put their best effort in no matter what happens they can't look back and say they didn't try. I know they were all disappointed, and don't understand how this happened."
Nonetheless, Palo Alto had a hugely successful season by going 12-0 in the SCVAL De Anza Division and 14-0 overall. The Vikings won the league tournament for a fourth straight year, following four straight undefeated seasons in dual-match play. And, Paly won one of the two CCS regionals last week.
"I'm very proud of this team," Knight said. "I know they tried all season long to improve and they did. Today just didn't go our way."