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Woo-ing the competition

BURBANK HIGH -- Grace Woo doesn’t have to try to be a role model.

Much like her athletic ability as a girls’ golfer at Burbank High,

it just comes naturally.

With a friendly demeanor and an unassuming nature, it is not like

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Woo to lobby or push to be a team leader. However, with a steady game

and a great deal of talent, the rest of the Bulldog players seem to

gravitate to the junior.

“I like being a kind of role model and all,” Woo said. “But I also

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think it comes with a lot of pressure. If I have players looking up

to me, I feel I always have to play my best and do [well] all the

time.”

First-year Burbank Coach Jackie Friedman said because the Bulldogs

have a small team -- just five players -- they have become a very

close-knit group. The team is also young, and the players look to Woo

for guidance.

“I think the players really look up to and respect Grace,”

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Friedman said. “They see what she can do, and how well she plays, and

they appreciate her ability.”

Things have changed a lot for Woo since her freshman season. As a

first-year player, Woo was mentored and helped along by senior

standout Moah Chang. Under Chang’s guidance, Woo was able to learn

the ropes of high school girls’ golf.

Chang has been Burbank’s most successful golfer, as she qualified

for CIF Southern Section competition three times.

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After graduating in 2002, Chang has gone on to success at the

collegiate level. Playing for Mount San Antonio College in Walnut,

she helped the team to an undefeated (13-0) season last year. Mount

SAC also captured a South Coast Conference championship, a Southern

California Regional title and a California State Community College

Women’s Golf Championship.

With her own aspirations of playing in college, Woo said she would

like to compete for the UCLA women’s team.

“To play for UCLA is my dream,” Woo said. “That would mean so much

for me.

“I’m just hoping that I can get a scholarship to play in college.”

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Just as Woo had someone to look up to as a freshman, this season’s

crop of Bulldog players have had lot to emulate in Woo. The junior

has been able to win her share of league and nonleague matches.

Woo has enjoyed the most success in Foothill League play, as she

captured three of four league matches leading up to Monday’s

preliminaries at Woodley Lakes Golf Course in Van Nuys.

In the prelims, Woo finished two shots behind Saugus’ Melanie

DeLeon, who fired a two-under-par 35.

Despite finishing second in the event, Woo was named Co-Foothill

League Most Valuable Player with DeLeon. It is Woo’s second MVP

honor, also earning the award as a freshman.

Wednesday, Woo will compete in the league finals at Woodley Lakes,

and barring a total collapse, should qualify for the CIF Southern

Section Individual Golf Championship on Nov. 20 at Mission Lakes Golf

Course in Desert Hot Springs.

If she does well in that event, Woo would find herself in the

prestigious 2003 CIF-Women’s Southern California Golf Assn.

tournament Nov. 24 at the Champions Course at the PGA of Southern

California Golf Club in Calimesa. A fine finish in that event would

earn her a berth in the in the state tournament on Nov. 25 at the

same course.

“I want to do well in the [Southern Section] tournament,” Woo

said. “Well, let me change that. I have to stay positive. I want to

win that tournament.

“I know there will be a lot of very good players at the

tournament, but I just have to go out and do the best that I can.”

Being a fierce competitor is something that is part of who Woo is.

With an overwhelming desire to succeed and a will to win, Woo admits

she can sometimes be hard on herself.

A case in point was the first league match Oct. 7 at Vista

Valencia Golf Course. Wanting to begin league competition with a

winning performance, Woo was disappointed when she finished second

behind DeLeon.

“I was not happy with that,” Woo said. “I was very disappointed in

myself and I think I should have played better.

“I knew after that [match], I was going to have to do better.”

She did just that, as Woo won low-medalist honors at the next

three league matches -- two at Burbank’s home course of El Cariso

Golf Course in Sylmar and one at Vista Valencia.

“I think not finishing first in that first league match really

motivated Grace,” Friedman said. “She just wants to win all the

time.”

Woo’s chance to improve on her fine freshman season in 2001 was

curtailed last year when she was sidelined with a wrist injury.

Unable to compete for the Bulldog team, Woo took some time off to

recover from severe tendinitis.

“It was hard not playing for the team,” she said. “I wanted to be

out there playing, but I was hurt.”

Competing in the sport since she was 8, Woo is a seasoned

competitor on the Southern California, as well as national, youth

amateur circuit.

Last summer, Woo traveled around the nation taking part in

American Junior Golf Assn. tournaments. In July, she qualified for

the U.S. Girls’ Junior at Brooklawn Country Club in Fairfield, Conn.

The field included 156 competitors, including 13-year-old

sensation Michelle Wie from Hawaii.

Woo said competing in tournaments against the best young players

in the country can sometimes be nerve-wracking.

“I get a little nervous some times,” she said. “But I just try and

stay focused and concentrate on my game. That’s all I can do.”

Later this month, Woo is headed to Florida to compete in the AJGA

Polo Golf Junior Classic at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena

Vista.

“It’s nice to travel around the country and go to all the

different tournaments,” Woo said. “I also like competing against the

good golfers.”

If she keeps on playing well, Woo could find herself competing

against the best the sport has to offer in coming years.

But first, her focus is solely on today’s league final, and

avenging her two-stroke loss to Saugus’ DeLeon in the prelims. By

doing so, Woo will continue to lead by example.


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