Alderton: Hong bears down

Erin Hong said her younger brother Bryan "dragged her into" golf.

I'm sure she's thankful he did. Erin, a senior at Sage Hill School, helped the Lightning to a second-place regular-season finish in the Academy League and is gearing up for the CIF Southern Section girls' golf Northern Individual tournament Monday at River Ridge Golf Club in Oxnard.

Bryan is a freshman at Sage this year.

"He teaches me a lot about the short game," Hong, 17, said in a phone interview. "I think I could beat him now."

I'll stay out of that one since I haven't heard Bryan's side of the story.

Hong medaled in seven of nine matches played and averaged just under 18 putts per nine holes. She shot an even-par 36 at Strawberry Farms Golf Club in Irvine to help the Lightning (7-5, 3-3 in league) defeat Fairmont Prep in a tiebreaker Oct. 12.

The win was especially significant because Fairmont Prep, the league champion the previous four seasons, had the Lightning's number during Hong's high-school stint.

"It was the first time we beat Fairmont in about three seasons," Hong said.

Hong then shot 83 and 85 during league finals and secured the fourth and final individual spot for CIF.

She's reached this point after starting the game during eighth grade. Her parents golfed, too. She already mentioned her brother's influence. Now, Erin can't get enough of the game.

When I first reached her Saturday afternoon, she was driving to practice. Her routine could be deemed rigorous by some standards.

"I practice every day and work out at the gym for an hour, stretching," Hong said. "I'll hit range balls for two hours, then go to the short game area for two, sometimes three hours. I'll putt for a good 45 minutes to one hour."

Sage's coach, Nicole Middaugh, took the helm before last season and has noticed Hong's steady progress.

"Her ball striking is so much better this year," Middaugh said. "When I go around to watch, she's always in the middle of the fairway."

Hong, though, said she could improve with her irons. She feels most comfortable around the greens.

"The short game is the strength of my game. I'm pretty inconsistent with my irons."

Mentally, Middaugh has encouraged Hong.

"I get frustrated with it and I am hard on myself," Hong said. "[Middaugh] will tell me to push and keep working hard. She's been a motherly-type coach."

You could say Hong is invested in Sage Hill even beyond the golf team.

This is the third straight year she has been class president and she has worked on the school paper.

The school's homecoming rally was Friday and members from each class dressed up in a separate color to see who had the most spirit, Hong said. Students arrived to school at 6 a.m. to deck buildings in colored butcher paper.

"It's fun to see what other grades come up with," Hong said.

Hong would like to play college golf and has visited Georgetown and New York University. Beyond college, Hong said playing in the LPGA could be an option.

When the season started Hong had a goal of shooting under par. She hasn't reached that benchmark yet, but there's still another round Monday.

"We'll see how the first round goes," Hong said.

Something tells me Hong will be ready.

BRYCE ALDERTON is the golf writer for the Daily Pilot. He can be reached at

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