So much for the sophomore jinx.
Already one of the better girls golfers in Kern County as a freshman, Iris Han didn’t leave anything to chance entering her 10th-grade year at Stockdale.
For starters, the returning first-team all-area player reworked her swing, changed her grip and got fitted for a new set of clubs. That was followed by plenty of practice, practice and more practice.
The result was a dominant year that earned Han the 2019 BVarsity All-Area Girls Golf Player of the Year award.
“I think the biggest change from my freshman year was mentally,” Han said. “I’m quite a bit stronger mentally. I used to break down when I made a bad shot. But I was a lot better at handling that this year.”
Han’s maturity on the course was evident as she swept to the Central Section, South Area and Southwest Yosemite League titles this season.
“She finally has a consistent golf swing,” Stockdale coach Nick Kaiser said. “I think what golf comes down to is how bad are your misses. And her misses were good, so she could get up and down and not make a double or triple bogey. And I saw with some of the other girls, their misses were bad, where now they’re making a triple (bogey). That’s hard to come back from.
“You look at all the best players in the world; I played professional golf for seven years, I see the players that play the best, and say ‘how bad are their misses?’ Are their misses out of bounds or are their misses just off the green where they can get up and down?”
Han’s steady play starts on the tee, according to Kaiser, where her consistency was one of her biggest strengths.
“Her tee ball is amazing,” Kaiser said. “I mean there will be rounds where she will hit 14 out of 14 fairways. And (her drive) is not super long, but man, when you’re in the short grass … everyone says putting is the most important, but I’ve always believed if you’re hitting from the trees, now you’re putting for bogeys.
“Being a former baseball and football coach I believe the first pitch is super important for a pitcher and first down is super important for an offense (in football). The same thing in golf, hitting off the tee, she is straight and decently long, so it sets such a great precedent for each hole when you’re down the middle.”
Han showcased her talents off the tee in the South Area Championship at Buena Vista Golf Course. Trailing by three shots with six holes to play, Han parred five of the last six holes and wound up winning by four strokes.
“She’s an introvert and she’s quiet, she kind of stays to herself and doesn’t show a lot of emotion, and sometimes that’s the way to be where you stay even-keel throughout the round,” Kaiser said. “In golf you get ups and downs. You make a long putt and the next hole you can make a triple.
“When she plays, she’s almost robotic. But when you look at most of the people that are winning on the (professional) tour, that’s how they are. They are very quiet, very robotic and just go through their things.”
Han has also benefited from playing several out-of-town tournaments on the weekends, which helped prepare her for tough matches by playing against some of the region's top players.
“I didn’t really used to like playing golf very much, or at least not practicing,” Han said. “But now it’s a big, big part of my life right now, and it takes up probably as much time as school does. I really enjoy playing and trying to get better right now.”