TAFT — Individually, the Garces girls golf team is solid, but not quite at the level of some of the area's elite. But collectively? The Rams are a force to be reckoned with.
With no player averaging below a 92, Garces’ success is built around its consistency, and depth, a combination that has led to wins in each of the first three Southwest League mini-tournaments this season.
On Monday at Mifflin-Buena Vista Golf Course, the Rams’ roadmap to victory was on display, with each of the team’s five scoring golfers finishing between 92 and 101, helping Garces finish 18 shots better than second-place Frontier and Stockdale teams that featured the four lowest individual scores of the day.
“Everybody shoots in the 90s or low 100s, and that’s what gives us the edge against the other teams,” fifth-year Garces girls coach Armando Robles said. “Because we have a complete team, as far as team scores go. But we’re still not shooting where we need to be shooting, or we’re capable of shooting, but we’ve been good enough to win.”
With the Rams’ most consistent players in the first two weeks, Anjelika Stevens (100) and Julia Hernandez (101), struggling a bit on Monday, their teammates stepped up Monday. Stevens had shot an 88 in each of the first two tournaments, with Hernandez scoring an 88 and 89, but Malia Guimarra and Tara Miller shot their lowest rounds of the year, finishing with a 92 and 96, respectively, and Hailey Shaw had a 100 to round out Garces' team total.
By contrast, the top individual players in the SWYL have been shooting in the high 70s and low to mid 80s. Unfortunately, the team’s depth at the No. 4 and No. 5 spots hasn’t been able to compete with the Rams.
“That’s the track with coaching in high school,” Robles said. “You have to work on your four, five and six. And that’s what we do. Everybody works the same. I don’t separate them, our ones and twos play exactly the same way as everyone else. And that’s high school golf. The last three (scoring golfers) are what wins you the league or the tournament.”
Low scores were hard to come by on Monday, with several players struggling to read the greens as the afternoon heat dried what had been a soft surface earlier in the day.
“Overall I had a tough round, a tough day,” said Stockdale senior Iris Han, the two-time BVarsity All-Area player of the year, who had the low round with a 79 on Monday. “I did struggle on my irons, my drivers were decent and my putting was okay. I did get some of it back toward the end of the round.”
Frontier’s Maci Mills was leading Han by one shot late in the round, but the Titans’ senior was 5-over par on the final six holes, while Han finished just 1-over during that stretch as the two played in the first three-some.
“It just happened,” said Han of her strong finish. “I wasn’t even trying to play competitively at the end. I was just trying to keep myself calm, more than trying to get stressed out and shoot low. Just no more bogeys, par, par, par, finish off with a par.”
Meanwhile, two holes behind Frontier junior Allison Bailey was enjoying her best round at Buena Vista, finishing one stroke behind Han with an 80.
“I just had a really good mental day,” said Bailey, who is fourth in scoring in the SWYL with a 83.6 average. “All around I felt really positive about how I was playing.”
Bailey attributes her strong play to the support of her teammates prior to the play.
“My team made me feel really good beforehand and I felt really confident going out,” said Bailey, whose positive day started with breakfast with the team and continued on the trip in the team van.
But things didn’t start well for Bailey once she got on the course. Opening on the par-five fourth hole for the shotgun start, Bailey opened with a bogey. But things turned around in a hurry when she drained a 50-foot putt to salvage a par on the 435-yard fifth hole.
“I made a really long putt, and I was like, ‘oh ya, this is going to be a good day,’” Bailey said. “I didn’t even think I was going to shoot this low. Honestly, I didn’t even focus on my score, just focused on myself.
“I kind of just focus on having fun. I don’t even focus on my score, and when I do it seems to make it worse. So I just go out there and play golf.”