Young and fearless, Dougherty Valley girls golf took a giant leap forward in winning its first NCS title.
By CHACE BRYSON | Editor
SAN RAFAEL — As coaches and golfers stood and watched the scores post at the North Coast Section Division I Girls Golf Championships on Oct. 28, it was easy to hear the whispered math taking place.
And once all the teams were filled out, there were mumbles and rumblings. But the only thing closely resembling any gasps came from the far left of the scorer’s table. That’s where the Dougherty Valley High golf team had gathered.
They had just realized they had won the school’s first NCS golf title — just one year after finishing eighth.
“I don’t think we thought we would win it,” said sophomore Yoonhee Kim, the Wildcats No. 1 golfer who carded a 4-over 75 in the 18-hole tournament held at Peacock Gap Golf Club in San Rafael. “I think we thought there was a chance that we could maybe get third, but we definitely did not think we could win it.”
Dougherty Valley didn’t just win the tournament. The Wildcats won by eight strokes, a fairly wide margin for the annual championships. The last school to win an NCS title by more than eight strokes was Alameda, which cruised to an incredible 22-stroke victory in 2009.
The winning number for Dougherty Valley was 390. The five-golfer score included Kim’s 75, a 79 from Siobbhan Sher, an 83 from Clarendon Chow, an 85 from Reini Lin and a co-medalist-honors, 3-under 68 from freshman Belinda Hu.
The big day from Hu wasn’t a big surprise to any of the Wildcats, as she’s come in under par in each of their 18-hole tournaments this season. That included a 2-under 70 at the Diablo Foothill Athletic League tournament two weeks prior to NCS.
“She’s smart. She knows what to do; she knows how to play,” Wildcats coach Mike Cowan said of Hu. “She stays calm and is very confident with total all-around skills. She just comes out and plays, and is just a sweetheart.”
Hu, who had never played the course before, began the shotgun start on hole No. 4.
“I started out pretty good,” she said. “I had a bit of trouble in the middle and then I finished really good.”
She finished with a birdie, hitting a 7-iron to within three-feet of the cup on the 121-yard No. 3.
“She’s just been playing great,” Kim said of Hu. “She plays better when she doesn’t know the course as well. She played really great today. I’m really proud of her. As a freshman, she played amazing.”
The focus on Hu allows one to lose grasp of the fact that the entire Wildcats roster is young. Kim, Sher and Tiffany Cha — the team captain who shot an 87 that wasn’t scored at NCS — are all sophomores. Chow is a junior and Lin is a freshman.
The Wildcats have also embraced the team concept, something that was really impressed upon them by assistant coach Micalann Cowan, Mike’s daughter. Micalann had a strong team golf experience in high school playing for Amador Valley and long-respected coach Clark Fuller.
“Coach Fuller really strived to instill a team concept with us,” said Cowan, a 2005 graduate who was the first Amador Valley team to qualify for the state tournament. “That experience, and playing for (Fuller), was really the inspiration for what we’re trying to do here.”
Coincidentally, it was Fuller’s Amador Valley team which finished eight strokes back of Dougherty Valley for second place.
The Dons were led by Kimberly Liu, who also shot a 68 to share medalist honors with Hu. Mission San Jose, which began the day as the defending champion, shot a 403 to edge Dublin by one stroke for third place.
All three teams are now qualified for the California Interscholastic Federation NorCal Tournament on Nov. 4 at Spring Creek Golf Club in Ripon. Four other individuals also qualified, including Acalanes’ Elizabeth Schultz (even-par 70), Justin-Siena’s Kathleen Scavo (70), Carondelet’s Sabby Virtusio (72) and Granada’s Taylor Robles (72). The last two survived a three-golfer playoff to advance.
There’s a good chance Dougherty Valley will put a few practice rounds in before the regional tournament — something they surprisingly didn’t do in the week leading up to NCS.
“We didn’t practice the last week and a half,” Mike Cowan said. “We let them catch up on their work and Micalann and I let them have some time off. But they’re so diligent that they do everything on their own. They work hard. They’re a great bunch of girls and what more can you say?”
Kim, as it turns out, was happy to say a lot.
“Oh my gosh, I can’t even express how much I love this team,” she said. “The freshman have helped our team so much. and it’s great to have a team because golf is such an individual sport. To have a team, and have it do well, is such a fun experience. I’ve really enjoyed it this year.”
Will the Cowan coaching tandem tweak anything for the tournament in Ripon?
“We’ll try not to screw it up,” Mike Cowan said. “If the horse ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
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