By RICHARD J. MARCUS
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT’
Consistently booming fairway drives, an improved short game and an even-keeled disposition made for a successful mix that guided Maria Carrillo senior Michael Danielski to a stellar 2015 season, making him The Press Democrat’s All-Empire boys golf player of the year.
It was a busy season for Danielski, who was also named the North Bay League player of the year by league coaches. Danielski led the Pumas to a second-place NBL finish before advancing individually to the Tournament of Champions playoffs at Monarch Bay in San Leandro.
“From the beginning of the year, two of my short-term goals were to win the Empire and NBL player of the year awards, so it feels good to achieve those goals,” Danielski said.
Danielski won the individual NBL title with a Redwood Empire-leading 74-stroke average for the season, but it came down to a clutch NBL postseason tournament performance for him to seal the league crown. Danielski was tied with Windsor’s Evan Smith and held a one-stroke lead on Cardinal Newman’s Brandon Bone for stroke average on the season going into the postseason. Danielski subsequently posted a 73 in the tournament to beat Smith by nine strokes and Bone by five for the NBL title.
“I hit a lot of greens on par at the NBL tournament,” Danielski said. “Brandon and I have been good friends for 10 years and have been playing against each other my entire career. It helps a lot having a competitor like Brandon to go against.”
Danielski will go to SRJC in the fall but said he has not yet decided whether he will play golf for the Bear Cubs or save his eligibility for when he goes to a four-year university.
“Michael has the ability and all the intangibles to make it at the next level,” Maria Carrillo coach Zach Christ said. “Seeing how he has developed and how far he can hit the ball from his freshman to his senior year was fun to watch.”
A four-year varsity starter for the Pumas, Danielski says it was after his freshman year that he decided to dedicate himself to the craft of golf.
“My sophomore year I got more serious about my game and wanted to get better,” Danielski said. “Mentally, my game is better than a few years ago. I have matured as a player and now I hit much smarter shots and take less foolish risks.”
Slightly built at 5-foot-10, 145 pounds, Danielski relies on technique and form to power his drives, which average about 280 yards.
“I’m not a big guy but I can generate a lot of club speed and torque,” said Danielski, who said his short game has improved but acknowledged his putting needs to get even better at the next level. “Putting is the worst part of my game and it is the most important. It’s mental. Sometimes I second-guess myself before I putt. You just have to trust yourself.”
Seven NBL golf coaches were polled about Danielski, and his long drives and calm course demeanor were mentioned repeatedly as standout qualities.
“Danielski hit some shots that other players couldn’t. He was the only golfer in the league that could overpower a golf course with his length,” Montgomery coach Jess Stimack said. “He didn’t have much of a weakness. He is only going to get better.”
Ukiah coach Dominic Brutocao said of Danielski: “He has a beautiful swing and is a complete golfer. He has good composure and handles the tough situations well.”
After hitting a 77 at the NCS qualifier, Danielski moved on to the Tournament of Champions, which unfortunately didn’t go as planned. He shot an uncharacteristic 84, a 12-over-par performance that eliminated him from moving on to the NorCal final.
“It was really windy all day at the TOC and it took six hours to finish the round. I’m not used to playing in that kind of wind,” Danielski said. “I was not mentally ready for the TOC.”
Even with a disappointing performance to close his season, Danielski put the experience in perspective.
“I was not happy at all with my play at the TOC but I was happy with my senior year overall,” he said.
Other Danielski positive qualities, according to Christ, are his leadership, willingness to be a mentor and work ethic.
“Michael was the best player I have coached in my eight years at Maria Carrillo,” Christ said. “After his freshman and sophomore years I didn’t think he would be the best, but he developed into it.”
(Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)[/caption]