With each tee shot and putt, expectations steadily rise for Tammy Panich.
Approach shots are expected to be on target toward the middle of the fairways. Putts need to be made for birdie or par. That's the script that Panich, who excelled at Glendale High before moving on to Cal State Northridge and then transferring to Glendale Community College for this season, has always followed.
The expectations don't just stop there. What Panich would like to ultimately achieve is to become the first Glendale college women's golfer to partake in the state tournament in November. She's taking that possibility to heart.
"I know that I still have to practice a lot," said Panich, a sophomore. "Individually, I always expect to play well and I want to make it to the state tournament.
"Mentally, I still feel like I'm strong enough to get to state."
With her goals clearly outlined, it's considered by Panich, who graduated from Glendale in 2009 and was a two-time All-Area member, to be a transition year. In addition to improving each part of her game, there's the task of helping shape the future of the Glendale college program that's in its fourth year of existence.
At Glendale High, Panich excelled as a freelance athlete during the girls' season and became the top player on the boys' team for four seasons. She began her collegiate career at CSUN, where she received some playing time but said things didn't turn out the way she envisioned.
Wanting to continue playing, Panich opted to move to Glendale college, where she's been the Vaqueros' top player during the first three weeks of the season under the guidance of first-year Coach Greg Osbourne. She underwent an appendectomy in late August — about a week before the season began — preventing her from swinging a club for roughly 10 days. Though still occasionally bothered in the aftermath of the surgery, Panich has managed to put together some quality rounds.
For example, in her first appearance with the Vaqueros, Panich finished third overall with a 150 in the Desert Classic at Indian Canyon Golf Resort in Palm Springs on Sept. 4. With the temperature close to 100 degrees in the Coachella Valley, Panich opened with a five-over-par 77 before regrouping to fire a 73 in the second round. Her second round left its mark as the best in the short history of the GCC women's program.
"I hadn't been practicing much because I just had the operation, so I was kind of rusty," Panich said. "I just kept making putts that I didn't expect to make."
The Vaqueros, who don't have a full compliment of players to field a team, will host a Western State Conference match at 11 a.m. today at Oakmont Country Club. It will be another opportunity for Panich to prove she can continue to get the job done for the Vaqueros.
"To build a program, you need a star," said Osbourne, who also coaches the college's men's team and is a PGA Pro and the head pro at DeBell Golf Club in Burbank. "She is it and she can help build a program.
"She's our catalyst. She played at the Division I level at CSUN and things just didn't work out. Luckily, I was able to talk her into coming to Glendale college. She's got that great work ethic in that she listens and does what you need her to do out there on the course. You don't have to tell her things twice."
Before choosing Glendale college, Panich entertained the possibility of transferring to Biola University and briefly considered the University of San Francisco. However, Glendale college provided the best set up for Panich.
"At CSUN, I got to play in tournaments against UCLA and USC," Panich said. "I saw the way those players were able to compete and it helped me improve on things like technique.
"I thought GCC would be the best fit for me because it's close to home and I can work on things with Greg."
Osbourne, a former Glendale college golfer and All-American at California Lutheran University, said Panich has continued to improve her all-around game while still recovering from surgery.
"Her driving is very straight and she's accurate with her irons," Osbourne said. "She's been putting well and putting comes with getting used to the speed of the greens.
"She should be the best in our conference, if not one of the best. I think she will at least make it to the Southern California Regionals. If healthy, she will make it to state. This is Tammy's year, and she's got all of the capabilities to do well."
Glendale college freshman golfer Diana Hernandez said Panich appears relaxed when she's on the course or on the driving range.
"It's about her consistency and she seems relaxed hitting the ball like she's in a zone," Hernandez said. "She always likes a challenge and it's almost like she's a perfectionist.
"She's got that way of knowing what to do and being calm about it."
Panich would ideally like to win today's round, which will feature a top field of players from traditional state powers Santa Barbara City College and College of the Canyons. A similar effort to the final round she recorded in Palm Springs might put her in contention to win today's round.
"It's going to be fun playing at Oakmont," Panich said. "I know I can do well and I expect to play well."