Corona del Mar High sophomore golfer Amy Matsuoka is somewhat of a rarity, a consistent performer in a sport known for its up and downs.
Matsuoka constantly finishes top 10 in the American Junior Golf Assn. tournaments in which she plays. In the Sea Kings’ 14 matches this fall, she was medalist in half, despite missing two matches to play an AJGA tournament in Oklahoma.
How does she do it?
“The key is just to have a positive attitude and keep plugging through it,” Matsuoka said.
After last week, Matsuoka also can say she made school history.
The Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week shot 70-67 at the Pacific Coast League individual girls’ golf championship at Dos Lagos Golf Course in Corona. Her two-day total of 137, which included five birdies on the second day, helped her win the individual title. Coach Mike Starkweather said she’s believed to be the first individual league champion in school history.
“I feel really honored to represent my school,” said Matsuoka, who got third place last year at PCL finals. “I couldn’t believe it. I was really surprised.”
Few should be surprised at Matsuoka’s success. She’s ranked No. 30 among AJGA junior girls in the country, after winning her first AJGA tournament in Kansas City over the summer. Last year, she was the only Newport-Mesa girl to qualify for the CIF Regional State Qualifier.
Matsuoka can get back to that tournament by finishing top 28 at the CIF Southern Section Individual Championship and WSCGA Qualifying Tournament, which takes place Thursday at Talega Golf Club in San Clemente. She’s never played the course, but Matsuoka did play a practice round Friday. She’ll be joined there Thursday by her CdM freshman teammate, Alyaa Abdulghany, who is a stud in her own right.
Abdulghany was the medalist at six of the Sea Kings’ matches this season. She also was medalist at a far bigger tournament on Halloween morning, when she fired a three-under-par 67 to finish first at the CIF Southern Section Southern Division Team Championships at Costa Mesa Country Club’s Mesa Linda course.
Matsuoka doesn’t want to finish one match short of the CIF State Meet again. She said her goal is to make the meet, which takes place Nov. 20 at Quail Lodge in Carmel, for the first time.
With her talent, Starkweather knows that she definitely has a shot.
“She is, hands down, one of the finest golfers that we’ve ever had at Corona del Mar High, boy or girl,” Starkweather said. “She’s pretty much at the top level for high school golfers. When you’re shooting even par or better, that’s about as good as it gets in high school golf. Golf is really an inconsistent sport.”
Matsuoka somehow makes it look easy. She practices between two and three hours a day at Willowick Golf Course. She said over the past year she’s made strides in becoming more consistent and hitting the ball further. Now, she can drive the ball 235 yards.
Yet, she still maintains a 4.0 grade-point average. That makes her family happy, especially older sister Melissa, a senior tennis player at Dartmouth College. Both sisters are known for being quiet, yet very respectful.
Melissa Matsuoka helped CdM girls’ tennis win four PCL titles, as well as the 2006 CIF Southern Section Division 1 crown as a freshman.
“We Skype and text all the time, like every day,” Amy Matsuoka said. “She tells me to focus on school, focus on my grades.”
In terms of golf, Amy Matsuoka is definitely making the grade. As a freshman, she said she had a goal to be in the top 25 in the nation in the next two years.
She still has a year left to reach that goal, yet she’s almost there.
Matsuoka is not one to boast, but she definitely has made waves in the local junior golf scene, even in ultra-competitive Southern California.
“You can go to these tournaments and everybody knows Amy,” Starkweather said. “Everybody looks up to her, because she’s so good. That’s really neat.”
Born: Feb. 23, 1998
Hometown: Newport Beach
Coach: Mike Starkweather
Favorite food: Korean barbecue
Favorite movie: “Happy Gilmore”
Favorite athletic moment: Winning at the AJGA Lockton Kansas City golf tournament last July.
Week in review: Matsuoka shot three-under-par 137 to win the Pacific Coast League individual championship at Dos Lagos Golf Course in Corona. She is believed to be the first golfer in school history to win the league title.