High five continue to roll through local golf tournament

OXNARD — What very well could have been an afternoon of elimination was instead a Thursday filled with elation for five local girls’ golfers who participated in the CIF Southern Section Northern Individual Regional at par-72 River Ridge Golf Course.

Crescenta Valley High’s Jocelyn Chia and Audrey Chung, Burrough’s Joany Goa, Burbank’s Irene Maemura and La Cañada’s Melissa Leo all shot at least two strokes below the tournament’s cutoff point and advanced to the following week’s Women’s Southern California Golf Assn. Regional Qualifier at Western Hills Golf & Country Club in Chino Hills.

A total of 45 of the 109 golfers who participated advanced as their totals produced a qualifying score of 78.

Like she a did a week earlier at the Pacific League finals, two-time reigning league champion Chia led the way in carding an even-par 72.

“I didn’t play my best today, but I thought as long as I shot around a 77, that I would qualify,” Chia said.

The junior was two-under through 17 holes before double-bogeying the 166-yard 18th hole.

“I just chunked it on that last hole,” said Chia, who advanced past regionals for a third straight year. “I hit my tee shot into the water and that’s why I didn’t shoot under par.”

Nonetheless, Chia was only one of 16 golfers who shot even par or better and improved upon her score of 74 tallied at last year’s regional.

While Chia won the Pacific League finals by six strokes over Maemuro on Oct. 17, this time Burbank’s top golfer was in close pursuit before finishing with a impressive 73.

Maemuro’s total was two shots better than that of Leo, who finished with a 75 and nervously waited to see if she would advance.

“I played OK and I know I could have done better,” Leo said. “When I turned in my score card, I thought it was enough, but I wasn’t sure until the end.”

Leo took pride in a birdie she picked up in the 466-yard par-five fifth hole, which she completed thanks to a 25-yard “bumpy” chip shot.

Chung matched Leo with a 75 and noted the favorable conditions playing in 78-degree temperature with a light wind.

“It was pretty nice and the course played good,” Chung said.

Chung’s best effort may have come on the 425-yard eighth hole, where she pulled within 12 feet of the cup thanks to a perfectly-place 45-yard shot that led to par.

The area’s closest call came from Gao, who found herself on the inside looking out as she advanced by two strokes in shooting a 76.

“It went pretty good today. I really wanted to improve my score from last year, that was my main goal,” said Gao, who was a first alternate last season after missing the cut by one shot with a 78. “It feels great to make it this year.”

All five girls were part of a strong contingent from the Pacific League, which qualified all seven of its representatives to Chino Hills.

Joining the aforementioned five are Arcadia’s Michelle Cheung, who carded a 78, and Kayla Yn, who shot a 74 and earned high praise after connecting on a hole-in-one in the par-three, 165-yard seventh hole.

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