The Sage Hill School girls’ golf team huddled in a circle one last time Thursday afternoon, near the green of the first hole at Brookside Golf & Country Club.
Senior Ashleigh Park had just lost a playoff hole at the CIF Southern California Regional championships, barely missing out on a chance to advance to the CIF State tournament as an individual. The Lightning as a team also failed to qualify as a top-three team, tying for fourth place.
Teammates approached Park to give her a hug. The normally stoic Park was teary-eyed as she walked back to the clubhouse, reflecting on a season in which the Lightning went 15-0, won their fourth straight league title and advanced to the SoCal Regionals for the first time.
“We were very together this year,” said Park, bound for the University of Texas. “We had such great teamwork. We’re all a family. We all love each other very much, and all of this love helped us get this far.”
One player will still represent Sage Hill on Tuesday at Poppy Hills Golf Club in Pebble Beach. It’s the other leader for the Lightning.
Northwestern-bound senior Jennifer Cai shot a two-over-par 75 to advance to state for the second straight year. She was the seventh of nine individuals to qualify.
“I’m super excited,” said Cai, who had two birdies and four bogeys on Thursday. “It’s going to be really fun to just go on a little road trip and travel to Northern California. I heard it’s a beautiful course ... It’s a very jam-packed week for me, but it’s definitely worth it to have so many amazing experiences.”
Cai will play at Poppy Hills on Tuesday before flying to Florida the following day for the Rolex Tournament of Champions, an AJGA national event which begins Nov. 23.
“She’s kind of like on tour right now,” Sage Hill coach Bruce Loman said.
Sage Hill as a team shot 44-over-par 409. Park had a three-over-par 76, and freshman Jessica Wang shot 77. Sophomores Mahlia Hampton and Elizabeth Casey were the fourth and fifth scorers with rounds of 90 and 91, respectively.
Troy (392) won the tournament, followed by Chula Vista Mater Dei Catholic (396) and Diamond Bar (400).
Park, who made it to state as a sophomore, nearly advanced as an individual again. But she bogeyed her final hole of regulation, No. 11, as her five-foot par putt lipped out. That put her in a three-player playoff for the final spot, which was won by Tititia Loudtraguingam of Discovery Christian after she birdied the first playoff hole of No. 1.
“The past few rounds, I’ve been playing pretty consistently for CIF, [but] you can’t play really well each time,” Park said. “All you can do is be as consistent as possible ... I got a new putter about five days ago, so I wasn’t too confident about it coming into this day. I didn’t putt as well as I hoped today, but I’m still going to work on it, work hard for the future. Making it to state would be an honor, but overall I think I played the best this season out of all of my [high school] seasons.”
Two other locals had their individual seasons end Thursday. Newport Harbor senior Wa Yeung Tong shot a six-over-par 79 to finish 25th among the 122 individuals entered. Edison sophomore Chaemin Kim finished 41st after carding an 80.
Tong, who also goes by Cathy, had won the CIF Indivdiual Southern Regional tournament at Los Serranos in Chino Hills on Oct. 29 with a six-under-par round that included eight birdies. Thursday’s round was a different story, as she had three birdies, but also five bogies and two double-bogies.
“I had five three-putts,” Tong said. “I practiced here three times before the tournament, so I was ready. It’s just that my putting wasn’t that good. To be honest, it’s a little sad for me. I took time to practice here. I mean, I did my best.”
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