Some things are worth the wait.
The Stockdale Country Club’s women’s golf team discovered that earlier this month.
More than six months after its golf season was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the combined efforts of Stockdale’s 16 golfers resulted in the country club’s first title. Their best prior performance was an appearance in the semifinals in 2002.
The group made that official with a narrow victory over Huntington Beach-Meadowlark Golf Club, winning the SCGA women’s team golf championship, 7-6 in a tiebreaker on Oct. 4.
“I think there was something different about this year’s team,” said Julie Cesare, who went 3-0 in two-player-team match-play during Stockdale’s four-match run to the title. “Anytime you have kind of new golfers that are getting enthusiastic about it, they’re better than their handicaps are at the time, and we just had a really good mix of women.”
Half of the 14 golfers that competed in the playoffs for Stockdale were undefeated in their matches. Lori Ochoa, Kathy Jo Carlisle and Sonya Brady were 4-0, with Cesare and Barri Giumarra, who has the team's lowest handicap, going 3-0. Terry Thelen and Sandy Kiesel were 2-0.
“I think once we won that first playoff, and all of our girls won their matches, I think that got the juices rolling and they said, ‘hey, we can do this,’” said team captain Patti Brokken, who was unable to play after injuring her neck and suffering a broken arm in separate incidents during the team’s hiatus. “We have a lot of very strong, competitive, gals this year. It was very disappointing not being able to play, but I’m very proud of the team. They all played their hearts out.”
The team’s strong play culminated during a tough final against Meadowlark, with Giumarra and Carlisle’s victory proving to be the difference as the first tiebreaker and the scored tied at 6-6 after six matches. Two points are awarded for each victory.
“I was pretty excited,” said Brokken, who won her only match of the season in the team’s victory over Ventura County’s The Saticoy Club just before the outbreak of COVID-19. “I was disappointed that I wasn’t in there, but I’m very happy that I got to be part of it by being captain. Been captain last three years, than one more year. Deciding who is playing, what position they’re playing in that really kept me involved.”
With the regular season canceled, the SCGA worked with golf clubs throughout southern California to organize a playoff bracket that could be played in as safe an environment as possible. As part of that safety protocol, players each had to drive in their own cart and had to stay at least 6-feet from other participants. The traditional luncheon and awards ceremony were also canceled.
Play resumed July 30, with each team sending half of their 12-person lineups to each other’s course. That led to some interesting challenges when trying to keep track of teammates performances more than 100 miles away during the semifinals and finals.
After receiving an opening-round bye, Stockdale swept a pair of local country clubs, defeating Bakersfield and Rio Bravo to reach the semifinals. Stockdale advanced to the finals with an 8-4 victory over Saticoy in the semifinals. The competition pairs 12 golfers from each team, with each playing in a best-ball, match-play format. Ochoa won two matches at out-of-town courses and shot her lowest round — an 83 — at Saticoy during the semifinals.
Kari Mitchell and Sharon Balfanz, who were 3-1 during the playoff run, each helped their team earn points. Sheri Horn-Bunk, Melissa Mays, Jodi Fringer, Linda Voiland and Susan Gilbert won a pair of matches during the run to the championship. Linda Mailer and Michelle Thelen are also on the team.
“It’s always my funnest event of the year and I think a lot of women feel that same way,” Cesare said. “It was quite an honor and everything just kind of fell together that we actually won the whole championship.”