Alhambra Keppel Looks Formidable

Times Staff Writer

When the golfers from the Alhambra Keppel girls' team tee off in the CIF-WSCGA championships today at the PGA of Southern California Golf Club, the other players will know who they are this time.

That's because the Aztecs have drawn much attention during the postseason by shooting low scores and establishing themselves as a state title contender.

Only three weeks ago, after a second-place finish in the Southern Section Central Divisional, Keppel had opponents checking their maps.

"It's weird," Keppel Coach Tony Sumida said. "I still don't think anyone knows who we are. We don't get a lot of publicity. We're kind of on our own island out here [in the San Gabriel Valley]. Everyone is always like, 'Where is Keppel?' "

That's because Keppel is an unlikely school to excel in girls' golf. Keppel is known more for girls' basketball and badminton. The western San Gabriel Valley is so lacking in girls' golfers that Keppel plays in a league with Pomona and Claremont.

Alhambra has no country clubs, so the team uses the 4,501-yard Alhambra Municipal Golf Course for home matches

The other Southern Section teams that will play today are Goleta Dos Pueblos, Rolling Hills Estates Peninsula and San Clemente -- all schools in coastal communities, all teams that play at least a few matches a year at country clubs and all members of traditionally strong golf leagues.

"I knew we would be pretty good," Sumida said. "But I didn't know we would be able to compete with those other teams."

They have done more than compete. Keppel shot 389 in the Central Divisional. Peninsula shot a postseason record 377 that day. Keppel's score is the second-lowest.

In the section finals, Keppel shot 404 and finished third behind Dos Pueblos (401) and Peninsula (402). With a 404, Keppel would have won the section title any other year.

Junior Tina Eng is the top player for a young team that doesn't have any seniors. Mindy Kimura, also a junior, and freshman Dorothy Lee have been solid complements to Eng. All six Aztecs have shot 81 or better in 18-hole matches this season.

"We had high expectations, but nothing like this," Eng said. "We were hoping to make it through the divisionals, but we didn't think we could get that close at the finals."

Now the Aztecs are thinking about a state title -- the first in girls' golf. The California Interscholastic Federation-Women's Southern California Golf Assn. tournament begins at 8 a.m. today. Should Keppel place among the top three, it would play Tuesday for the state title.

"We were kind of shooting for this next year," Eng said. "But it would be nice to do this year."

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