Manassas Journal Messenger | Contender for state
By KIPP HANLEY
Daniel Kefale has a twisted ankle and a revamped swing.But that hasn’t stopped the Osbourn Park rising junior from playing some of the best golf of his life. The 16-year-old Woodbridge resident is ready to contend for a Group AAA state championship after having a productive –?albeit difficult –?summer.
Kefale is fresh off a second-place finish in the prestigious 35th Annual Independent Insurance Agent Junior Classic in Columbus, New Jersey –?a tournament Tiger Woods won twice. In July, he was second in the Bobby Bowers Memorial Tournament at Springfield Golf and Country Club and finished tied for ninth place in the ClubCorp Junior Players Championship at The Homestead Course.
And that’s after working all summer to change his swing while battling an ankle injury suffered during a pickup basketball game in May.
”On any given day, some kids are gonna shoot 67 and some are gonna shoot 71,” Osbourn Park coach Mike Foley said. ”I think he’s [Kefale] every bit ready to win the state tournament. Is he mentally ready? We’ll see. [But] he’s got all the tools.”
The last tournament the defending Cedar Run district champion won was the International Junior Golf Tour at the Homestead on April 6. However, Foley has several reasons to be confident in his team’s best player. For starters, Kefale is longer off the tee than he was last season, when he consistently drove the ball around 260 yards.
Thanks to some work with head professional Mark Holyfield at Powerline Golf Academy in Woodbridge, Kefale’s swing has shortened and he is rotating his hips better –?giving him added distance.
”I used to get all my power just from sliding back and forth, and I didn’t have good hip rotation,” Kefale said. ”So he got me to stay still during the shot and turn my hips to generate power.”
Secondly, Kefale already has two state tournament experiences under his belt. As a freshman, Kefale qualified in a Northwest Region playoff and finished 22nd at the state tournament. Last season, Kefale finished sixth despite arriving late the night before due to a previous golf tournament.
”I think he would have been in the top four [in the state] last year if the schedule had worked out differently,” Foley said. ”To finish where he did finish is a credit to him., to be able to come in at the last minute like that and still put up a good number. That’s got to tell people that this kid is ready to play.”
Consistency and an improved mental game are two things that Kefale is striving for. While some of his tournament scores this summer were a tad inflated, Kefale is becoming more comfortable with some of the swing changes. Last week, he went 71, 73, 72, 71, finishing 10 strokes behind rising senior Travis Toyama of Kaneohe, Hawaii. Toyama broke Woods’ winning margin record of nine strokes set in 1992.
On the outside, Kefale appears remarkably calm, especially for someone his age. Yet Kefale said that hasn’t always been the case.
”Mentally, I could be a little bit stronger,” Kefale said. ”I got to not let one bad hole get to me. It’s gotten a lot better. If I had one bad hole, it used to ruin the next two or three holes for me. Now, I am able to let it go.”
Monday was the first day that Foley was able to see his star player this season. The team played a nine-hole round at Broad Run Golf & Practice Facility in Bristow where Kefale shot an even-par 35 despite bogeying the ninth hole. On the final hole, he sailed his drive into the bunker and had to punch out before shooting onto the green.
The way Kefale played the hole Monday would not have been the way he played it in a tournament, assured Foley. Managing the course during tournaments is one of Kefale’s best attributes.
”You get the sense that he can pull off any shot he wants to,” Foley said.
”I look up to him as if he’s five years older than me,” added senior Daniel Littlefield. ”It’s just amazing to watch him.”
If Kefale wins the state tournament, it will be the first Yellow Jacket to do so in the school’s 27-year history and the first Prince William County student to accomplish that feat since Hylton’s Matt Krauss in 1996. OP’s Mark Hull won the Northwest Region championship as a sophomore in the early 1990s but did not finish in the top 10 in the state tournament that year.
Kefale, who finished third in the region a season ago, remains cautiously optimistic about his chances.
”There’s some good golfers but I think I can go out there, shoot some good scores and win the tournament,” said Kefale, who should get stiff competition from Douglas Freeman’s Will Oldham and Western Branch’s Matt Watson –?the only player returning that beat Kefale in the state tournament last year. ”I know [2002 state champion] Jenny Suh’s not going to be there, that’s one obstacle out of the way.”