Missing an opportunity for an unprecedented fifth B.C. high school AA golf provincial title was like discovering your ball in deep rough with an impossible lie.
But St. Thomas More senior Lucas Gatto is always hopeful that his next approach shot will leave the worst behind.
Gatto, now 17, was a first-year Grade 8 student at the Burnaby independent school when he shot a three-over-par 72 at Rivershore links in Kamloops to help the Knights golf team overcome a six-shot deficit and win their first-ever provincial high school title by three strokes over Kalamalka in 2008.
"It was pretty cool to win the first one. Being on that senior team, it was a lot of fun," said Gatto, who has accepted a golf scholarship to Simon Fraser University in September.
The nine-stroke victory was extra special in light of the un-golf-like conditions the championship was played under
"It was the toughest course - real windy and rainy. I can remember the par 4, 10th, I had to lay up, too," Gatto said of playing into a strong headwind. "Provincials mean a lot."
STM followed its first B.C. title with three more AA banners, including a 24-stroke victory in 2009 where Gatto also claimed the individual title with a 36-hole, eight-over-par 152 at Royalwood Golf Club in Chilliwack.
The following year, the Knights boasted their bestever showing, blowing out the opposition with a best four-player combined score of six-over-par - 44 strokes better than the runner-up school team from Collingwood.
Michael Belle, who is currently on a golf scholarship at SFU, led the team with a two-underpar 142, while then Grade 9 teammate Alan Tolusso came in at even-par and Gatto was next at threeover.
Last year, STM had a tougher time of it. Forced to come back from a two-shot deficit, Gatto and company prevailed on Day 2 to take a fourth consecutive provincial banner by five shots over second-place Kwalikum at Radium Hot Springs.
Gatto finished second overall with a two-day, three-under-par 141. STM teammate Kevin Vigna was third at one-over.
But this school year would not be like the one's before.
When the ongoing contract dispute between the B.C. Teachers' Federation and the provincial government spilled into the school year, few thought it would escalate to its present stalemate.
"Being a private school, we knew we'd have a program. It was just a question mark whether the public schools would play or not," said Gatto.
But last month when the teachers voted to withdraw from extracurricular activities, B.C. School Sports cancelled the high school golf championships for the first time due to a lack of volunteer support.
The decision came as a surprise to the STM team.
"We were a little disappointed that the teachers and government couldn't agree," said Gatto. "That would have been cool to have a shot at (a fifth title), for sure."
But all might not yet be lost.
Two invitational tournaments are currently in the works - a confirmed eight-team event to be held in Osoyoos and a proposed 12-to 16-team tournament in Victoria to be played at Arbutus Ridge.
"We are just allowing teams which are still playing to meet and compete at a high level," said STM coach Joe Thierman. "We're not trying to replace the provincials. It's open zone."
Both tournaments would be 36-hole affairs and run on the same May 26 and 27 weekend, allowing AA, AAA and single A schools to compete against each other.
Four schools were already confirmed at Osoyoos, but Thierman said the best fit for the Knights is the Shawnigan Lake invitational competition in Victoria, which is open to all schools.
"We're keeping our fingers crossed," Thierman said.