“It’s not so much that we feel pressure,” Wildcats junior all-leaguer Yoonhee Kim said. “It’s more that we just really want to win again.”
Lack of experience won’t be a problem.
Five of the six golfers who teed off at last year’s section tournament remain among the team’s Top 8. The one name missing is Belinda Hu, who shared medalist honors a year ago as a freshman but chose not to return to the team this year. That, in turn, gave opportunities to a pair of freshmen “” Amy Xue and Janica Ha “” who have both had fantastic first years with the Wildcats.
The team is coming off a standout performance in the DFAL Championship Tournament on Oct. 20 at Diablo Creek Golf Course. The Wildcats ran away from the field, producing a five-golfer score of 383 with all five golfers posting scores in the 70s. The overall number was 14 strokes better than second-place Dublin.
“I think we’re ahead of where we were last year at this time,” said Mike Cowan, a retired junior college golf, football and wrestling coach who shares coaching duties at Dougherty Valley with his daughter Micalann and long-time friend Pat Hallahan. “The girls are just more seasoned now. They know what it takes.”
Despite the section title, the Wildcats may not have been ready for the California Interscholastic Federation Northern Regional tournament a year ago. They ended up taking sixth on the day, failing to make the cut that advances the top three teams to the state tournament.
“I think we all didn’t have our best day (at NorCals),” Kim said. “But we knew that last year we didn’t play our best, and still we ended up getting sixth. Now we really want to get back and see what we can do on a better day.”
Kim is joined at the top of the Dougherty Valley depth chart by fellow junior all-league selection Tiffany Cha and sophomore all-leaguer Reini Lin. Kim and Cha each shot 5-over-par 76s at the DFAL Championship. Lin was one stroke behind with a 77.
Cowan says all three all-leaguers bring something different to the table.
On Kim: “She’s very confident and a quality player,” the coach said. “Very disciplined. She knows how to turn it on, knows how to play and knows how to score.”
On Cha: “She averaged almost three stokes better than last year in her 9-hole matches. She doesn’t get disappointed with bad shots. She’s confident, and a very good athlete. She actually gave up basketball to focus on golf.”
On Lin: “She doesn’t fool around. She’s all business. She’s taking like four AP classes and she’s just very steady.”
Filling out the Top 8 are the two freshmen, Xue and Ha, as well as senior Clarendon Chow and juniors Siobhan Sher and Sophie To. Only six can compete in the postseason tournaments with the five lowest scores counting toward the team total.
“It’s just been fantastic to be on a team where I can rely on everyone,” Kim said. “That’s what we do, we rely on each other. We can all have a bad day and know someone will pick us up.”
It’s up to Cowan and the coaching staff to take on the unenviable task of attempting to chose the right six each day.
“The pressure is on me,” Cowan said. “Am I putting the right person in each week? It’s like, who’s gonna do it today? But I have a lot of faith in all of them.”
Dougherty Valley will need to finish among the top three teams at Tilden Park if it’s to get a shot at NorCal redemption on Nov. 10 at Crazy Horse Ranch in Salinas. The contenders that could keep them out of the top three include East Bay Athletic League stalwarts Carondelet-Concord and Monte Vista-Danville, along with Mission San Jose-Fremont (Mission Valley league) and Dublin.
“Focus will be the key for us,” Lin said. “Everyone has good games, but if you can keep your focus as you’re playing, that’s where the low scores come from.”
Another big factor will be the two freshmen and how they respond to the big stage. At the DFAL Tournament the two hardly blinked. Ha was right there with Kim and Cha, sharing the team-best score of 76. Xue was only two strokes back at a very respectable 78.
Part of the reason few on the team are concerned about the two freshmen are their demeanor. Kim actually pointed to Xue as the teammate that always manages to keep the rest of the team loose.
“She’s literally one of the funniest people I’ve ever met,” the junior captain said. “She can just say “˜Hi’ to you and you start cracking up. Even if you’re upset, you can’t help it. She makes everyone feel great.”
Ha may be more quiet and analytical, according to Cowan, but neither seems to be overly affected by anything that happens on the course.
“I think we’re prepared for it,” Cowan said. “It’s a matter of whether they all can maintain and play well when they have the good shot, and then scramble when they have the bad shots. … They’ve done this, so it’s not a problem.
“All I really have to do is get “˜em to the course on time and get my pom poms out.” Ï‘
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