Osbourn Park senior golfer Daniel Kefale has played in tournaments in at least 15 states. He has won the Virginia State Golf Association Junior Amateur championship. Finished second at a tournament in New Jersey once won by Tiger Woods. Took seventh at an American Junior Golf Association event in Illinois. Reached the first round of match play in the U.S. Junior Amateur in San Francisco.
Kefale is by all accounts a success in his sport. But the funny thing about prep athletics is that locals often tend to better remember accomplishments achieved while representing a high school than they do any accomplishments out of season.
So what does this mean for Kefale? Will he have to win the Virginia AAA tournament this week at Lake Chesdin Golf Club in Chesterfield to cement his local legacy? Will it take victory for him to join such recent graduates as Gar-Field's Jeff Baker (baseball) and Sheena Johnson (track), Hylton's Ahmad Brooks (football) and Stonewall Jackson's Courtney Bures (softball) as big-time Prince William high school achievers?
"It wouldn't hurt, that's for sure," Kefale said with a laugh Friday. "I don't think it's absolutely necessary simply because golf in high school isn't as big as other sports in high school, just because golf is an individual sport and you can compete in a lot of national tournaments with really strong fields.
"Judging by accomplishments outside of high school golf, I think that says enough. . . . [But] having that state title would definitely help. It's something I've not gotten yet and something I want."
Kefale could become the fifth high school golfer in 40 years to win the VSGA Junior Amateur and a state high school title in the same year. He would join Meadowbrook's Lanny Wadkins (1964), Martinsville's Eric Smith (1973), Floyd's Bobby Clark (1979) and First Colonial's Carl Paulson (1988).
Stonewall's Brian Lehnhard, and others, won a state high school title and VSGA crown in different years; in Lehnhard's case, it was 1981 and '82, respectively.
Other than Lehnhard, the only local golfers who have won state high school golf titles are Tommy McManus of Brentsville in 1989 at the A level, and Hylton's Matt Krauss in 1996.
Kefale has reached the AAA event in all four years of high school but went home unsatisfied each time. He tied for 21st as a freshman at Evergreen Country Club in Haymarket, a finish he considered disappointing because of his familiarity with the course. As a sophomore, he placed sixth at Elizabeth Manor Country Club in Portsmouth, fading in the first round to finish 1-over par, which put him well off the lead.
Then came last year, an experience Kefale said he would rather forget. He shot a first-round 93 in 40-mph wind gusts at the par-72 Virginia National Golf Club in Bluemont; the average first-round score in those unfavorable conditions was 86. A teammate remarked at the time that he could not recall Kefale shooting as high as 75 all season.
Which brings us to 2004.
"I think after last year, [winning a state title is] a bigger deal than it would have been otherwise," Osbourn Park Coach Mike Foley said. "I think he really would like to make a statement. I know he wants to shoot a good score, and if that good score wins, that's great. . . . Playing well is more important to him than placement."
At least one teammate gets the feeling the state tournament might mean more to Kefale than he lets on.
"I think he feels like he has to win it because this is his senior year," said Osbourn Park junior Alan MacMullin, who also has qualified for the state event. "He doesn't say it. He's very nonchalant about it, but I kind of get [that] impression from him. I think it might just be his competitive nature. He's always got to win."
It doesn't seem like that long ago that Foley was wondering how this promising freshman named Danny Kefale would adjust to playing on a team of juniors and seniors. It took about nine holes for him to realize it was a good fit. The Yellow Jackets took a liking to the unassuming talent, who as a sophomore led the team to its first state tournament appearance in school history.
"He was amazing as a freshman, the things he could do and the way he could keep the ball under control and seemingly make par or birdie from places that other people could only guess at," Foley said.
Stonewall Jackson Coach Hilton Martin, in his 22nd season, has admired Kefale from afar, watching him win the past three Cedar Run District titles.
"He puts up numbers that are unbelievable," said Martin, who is most impressed with the steady refinement Kefale has made with his swing. "He's one of the best that's been around here. He's not flashy . . . he's just consistent. I guess that's the best word to describe him. The only thing he hasn't done is win a state championship, and I think he's got a very good opportunity to win that. If he can win the state championship, I think you'd have to put him in at least the top three [in the area] in the last 20 years."
Kefale won his second Northwestern Region tournament by six strokes Monday at Lee's Hill Golfers' Club in Fredericksburg. But Martin said he could read the disappointment in Kefale's face when Osbourn Park learned it had finished one stroke out of second place as a team. The top two teams qualify for the state tournament as a group.
Foley said that even though Kefale shot a 69, the senior lamented afterward that if he hadn't double-bogeyed the second hole, the team could have qualified for the state tournament.
Teammates and opponents alike admire Kefale's humble nature and wonder how he can be so successful and act so normal. The answer is because Kefale has played in so many challenging tournaments, he is well aware there are better players out there.
The Junior Golf Scoreboard Rankings list him at No. 138. Kefale is more concerned with the 137 guys in front of him than the thousands of players ranked below him.
"I don't see myself as being that good," said Kefale, who this past week took an official recruiting visit to the University of Virginia. "I've seen a lot of the competition outside of Virginia and across the nation and there are guys who are much better than I am. I can compete with them, but more often than not they're going to come out on top. . . . I kind of expect more out of myself than [my coach and teammates] expect out of me. I know I could be better than I am, so that's what humbles me."
Kefale's performance at the state tournament last year cost him a spot on the All-Met team after a stellar season otherwise, a snubbing that Foley took harder than his star golfer. Foley expressed his surprise to Kefale about not being selected. Kefale said he didn't deserve to make it because of his state tournament score.
"I thought, if that's the way he's thinking, then hats off to him," Foley said this week. "That's another indication of his humility."
Last year's state tournament is just one motivating factor Kefale will have in mind today when he heads to Chesterfield for a practice round before the two-day tournament tees off tomorrow. Kefale has never played the Lake Chesdin course.
The state event "is pretty important because I haven't won it yet," he said. "I think I've been good enough to win the state championship but haven't really pulled through yet. My goal coming into the season was to win Quantico [Invitational], district, region and states. I have one more [goal] left, I guess."