As an overachieving running back at San Jose State, a scrappy infielder at the University of Texas, and now as a high-level head football coach at one of California’s premier programs in the North, Patrick Walsh de Serra widely preached, if not embodied, a single concept.

Team, team and more team.

So when his then 11-year-old son Willy once told his dad he wanted to skip batting practice and hit golf balls instead, Patrick hesitated for a second, bowed and basically said “be my guest”.

As a sport, golf presents a unique set of challenges, which no Patrick – a self-proclaimed “army golfer… left, right, left right” – has been able to conquer.

“It’s the ultimate one-on-one game,” Patrick said. “The conditions in which you fight deep within are so unique and fascinating.”

Willy ditched football and baseball – as well as soccer – and carved out his own path, much of it clear of roughness, sand or even divots.

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WLT

Prev.

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Saint Francis

26-4

1

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Palo Alto

24-5

4

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Buttress

22-4

6

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Of the room

20-6

2

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Christian Valley

23-6-1

3

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California

21-5

5

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Clayton Valley

20-4

8

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Sailor Catholic

20-3

9

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Bellarmine

20-8-1

7

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Mitty

18-10

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Cardinal Newman

20-5

13

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SH Cathedral

17-10-1

14

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College Park

16-8

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Sequoia

18-8

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Windsor

19-6

12

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Saint Francis

25-2

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Livermore

22-3-1

2

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Grenade

23-3

3

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Heritage

19-3-1

4

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Mitty

24-3

5

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Aragon

17-4

6

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Our Lady Belmont

17-1

8

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Los Gatos

22-3

9

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Sailor Catholic

19-3

11

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Sequoia

20-6

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Pinole Valley

23-2-1

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Milpita

19-6-1

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Vintage

19-3

15

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Benicia

18-6

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American Canyon

18-6

NR


As a junior at Serra, he is ranked 50th player in the country in his category by the American Junior Golf Association. He pledged to defend national champion Pepperdine after also receiving offers from golf powerhouses USC, Oregon, Arizona and Wake Forest.

The 5-foot-9, 160-pound player will be the first to play Tuesday morning at the Laguna Seca Golf Ranch in Monterey for the Central Coast Section tournament final. The West Catholic Athletic League medalist leads a team that has won round robin and WCAL tournament crowns and won or shared four CCS crowns, the last in 2006.

The top three teams and four individuals not on those teams will advance to the Northern California tournament at Berkeley Country Club on Monday.

“It was hard to give up on other sports, especially football,” said Willy, a defensive receiver and kicking specialist. “I loved football, being part of a team of 50 to 60 guys all committed and responsible for one cause. But to be really good at golf, I had to invest everything. I really think golf is the sport hardest ever. At least for me. I’m kind of a perfectionist. It’s hard to conquer.”

None of this has been easy. At Willy’s first junior tournament in Modesto, temperatures soared to over 100 and he shot 65 – for nine holes. “He finished dead last,” Patrick said. “He was quite distraught. I asked him what he thought of it. He said: ‘I have to get better.’

He did, but his perfectionist ways can get the better of him. That’s where dad comes in. Although mentor Marlo Bramlett and swing coach Matt Kilgariff got his game off the ground, Patrick filled every other spot. “He’s my mental coach,” Willy said. “Has always been. At the competitive level. It teaches me life skills. He doesn’t care if I shoot 90 or 66, he cares that I’m playing all 18 holes and not making excuses or throwing clubs.

Willy remembers starting a club when he was 12 years old. “Dad was on the bag. He dropped them and said ‘I’ll see you in the car.’ I never did that again.”

Teammate Trevor Moquin said Wlly’s mental game is what sets him apart, although he helps drive the ball almost 290 yards consistently. Willy, whose golf idol is Jordan Spieth, is also considered the best putter on the team.

“He stays super focused throughout every lap,” Moquin said.

Willy has won several junior events, including shooting 13 under in a two-day qualifier for AJGA World last summer in Las Vegas. These victories allowed him to obtain a scholarship and his classification.

“The fact that he’s had sporting success independent of me is great. I don’t think I’ve beaten him since he was 10 or 11 and now I never will,” Patrick said. I am happiest is that he is humble and competitive at the same time. It makes me very, very proud.

Brother/sister rivalry at Oracle: Besides Washington (15-10) trying to snap a 16-game losing streak to Lowell (21-7) — and the Cardinals’ seven-year title run — in Tuesday’s San Francisco Section Baseball Championship at Oracle Park, there is also a serious sibling rivalry. Roman Fong, Lowell’s starting third baseman, and Bella Fong, who was just called up from Washington Junior University, are sophomore twins. Game time is 4 p.m. and admission is free.

MaxPreps senior writer Mitch Stephens covers high school sports for The San Francisco Chronicle.