The Lodi High boys golf team punched a ticket for its seventh consecutive trip to the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters tournament with a fifth-place finish at Wednesday’s Division I event.

The Flames shot 397 for fifth place, with the top six teams qualifying to the section Masters Tournament. Whitney won the tournament with a 372.

“We knew the top four were going to be a given. Everybody did,” Lodi coach Jim Staal said. “They were fighting for first through fourth, so we had teams we had to beat.”

Ethan Korock and Jack LeBaron led the Flames with 77s at the par-72 Timber Creek Golf Course in Roseville, followed by Jake Aberle with 78, Trevor Topham had a 79 and Rhett Hill shot an 86.

“We lost four of our top five players to graduation last year. If someone told me in January that this group was going to make masters as a team, I would have been very surprised,” Staal said. “The nice thing with our team is it’s very competitive in practice, they push each other a lot when we play in practice together. That’s helped a lot getting everybody improve.”

It helped to have a pair of newcomers contributing in Korock, a sophomore transfer from Austin, Texas, and freshman Aberle. Both were named to the All-Tri-City Athletic League team this year.

Staal said the team, which is not familiar with the Timber Creek course, played a practice round there on Thursday. LeBaron was the only team member who couldn’t make it.

“All he had was a yardage book I got him, so I was really impressed with him,’ Staal said. “He’s been playing really well. That course, I don’t think there’s any holes right in front of you, they’re all doglegs this way or that way.”

Lodi will play in the SJS Masters Tournament on Monday at The Reserve at Spanos Park. The top three teams will move on to the NorCal tournament.

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