Golf: Valerio makes early impact

Ronnie Valerio figures it's not going to do any good to get mad after a bad shot or putt.

So she lets it go and moves on to the next one.

Born in Pasadena, Valerio began her trek in golf at age 7, when her parents took her to the range for the first time. Eleven years later, the 18-year-old Valerio was named the Big West Conference women's Golfer of the Month for November as a UC Irvine freshman.

In November she finished second by two shots in the seven-team Turtle Bay Collegiate Invitational in Kahuku, Hawaii, at four-over-par 220 (73-74-73). She leads UCI in scoring average (74.75).

She tried a few sports growing up, including softball and karate. But when her father, Ron, and mother, Janet, took her to the range for the first time, she soon developed an affection toward golf. Golf was the one that "fit," Valerio said.

"I like the competitiveness [of golf]," Valerio said. "It's fun even when you're not playing competitively. It's calming."

Valerio, whose given name is Veronica, reached the CIF state individual championships as a freshman for Temecula Valley High. She placed second at the CIF Southern Section finals as a senior with a three-under 69 at Talega Golf Club in San Clemente.

Valerio considered UC Berkeley, Oklahoma State and Baylor, but chose to remain in Southern California for college.

"I'm a Cali girl," Valerio said.

Valerio has welcomed the competition, especially now in college.

"Everyone [in college] is more serious about the game," Valerio said. "We can all relate and help each other."

UCI Coach Julie Brooks said Valerio has handled the transition to college well and is level-headed.

"She is very humble, goes about her business and loves to play golf," Brooks said.

Brooks gave an example of Valerio's calm demeanor. She said Valerio comes up to her on the course and, instead of first asking for the hole's yardage or something related to golf, she'll ask if Brooks has any bananas. Or they might discuss dinner plans.

That laid-back personality is a trait Valerio said she's always had both on and off the course.

"I'm not too talkative or jumpy. I'm more relaxed," Valerio said.

But she acknowledges her not-so-calm moments as a child.

"When I was a kid, I'd get upset and cry if I had a bad game," Valerio said. "But my dad said there's no reason to cry. It's not going to make it any better."

UCI begins the winter/spring season Feb. 14 at the Northrop Grumman Challenge at Palos Verdes Golf Club.

Valerio will try to qualify for the USGA Public Links, Women's Open and Women's Amateur in 2011.

*Golf course personnel are rebounding following last week's heavy rains that soaked the ground, blew some trees down and caused managers to close courses for, in one case, three days.

Brad Booth, head pro at the public Costa Mesa Country Club, said Wednesday that both Los Lagos and Mesa Linda courses were open, but golfers could only walk on Mesa Linda.

"[The rain] has taken its toll," Booth said. "I'm looking at the putting green and there's standing water. There's lots of debris, but mostly just flooding.

"[Crews] pumped water off [Mesa Linda] as best they could."

Despite the rain, Booth said golfers waited as much as three hours to get out Tuesday.

As of late Tuesday afternoon, the back nine at Mesa Verde Country Club remained closed and the front nine was open to walking only, assistant pro Mike Fergin said.

"There's a couple areas [crews] are trying to fix on the back nine. I'm not sure when it will open," Fergin said.

Mesa Verde golf staff closed the course for two or three days last week. But it wasn't the only course that closed for a time due to the weather.

Newport Beach Country Club was back at full service Tuesday after being closed for two days last week, assistant pro Richard Ortega said.

"A couple of trees came down and there's a lot of bunker repair," Ortega said. "[When it rains heavily] all the sand gets pushed out of [the bunkers]," Ortega said.

As for the amount of water, Ortega said there were "rivers I hadn't seen before."

Big Canyon Country Club's 10th hole remained closed while carts were relegated to paths Tuesday, a golf assistant said.

The assistant said the 10th hole's green is too soft while the sixth hole has a "ton" of water on it. Big Canyon closed for three days last week.

Even with the rain, golfers still want to play, especially this time of year, Booth said.

"We have 15 to 20 players per day," Booth said. "People who got clubs for Christmas want to try them out," Booth said.

Fergin sees a positive with the rain.

"All the water is great," he said. "In the springtime, it will be a bonus for the golf course. We just have to be patient."

The Weather Channel reports that Costa Mesa has received 7.97 inches of rain as of Wednesday for December. The average for the period is 1.79 inches.

BRYCE ALDERTON is the Daily Pilot's golf writer. He can be reached at balderto78@yahoo.com.

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