Irene Maemura, Jocelyn Chia move on

CHINO HILLS — There was a certain nervousness on the face and in the mannerisms of Burbank High sophomore Irene Maemura juxtaposed with a sense of disappointment from Crescenta Valley’s Jocelyn Chia and the three other locals who trekked up to Thursday afternoon’s CIF Southern Section Girls’ Golf Individual Final at the Western Hills Country Club.

While Crescenta Valley’s Audrey Chung, Burroughs’ Joany Gao and La Cañada’s Melissa Leo had correctly guessed that their seasons had concluded before any results were finalized, Maemura still waited nervously, barely touching her complimentary lunch, while Chia sat and waited for results.

Thirty minutes after both had finished their final hole, each realized that more golf still lay ahead as a jubilant Maemura and a surprised Chia became the area’s last two qualifiers to next Thursday’s CIF-Women’s Southern California Golf Assn. Regional State Qualifier at Rancho California Golf Club in Murrieta.

“When I finished my last hole, I thought it was over. I had no idea I qualified,” said Maemura, whose score of four-over 76 was four strokes under the cut. “I really didn’t think I did that well and I really had no idea I was even close.”

Maemura and Chia are two of 29 individual golfers who advanced on the par-72 course and are also the final representatives from the Pacific League, which sent seven golfers.

In terms of city history, Maemura is the first golfer from Burbank to reach the state qualifying tournament since Burroughs star Emily Tubert did so in 2009 and the first Bulldog since Grace Woo in 2004.

Maemura started off with some issues, as she showed up for her 9 a.m. tee time at 8:40 and did not have time to practice.

An inability to warm up cost Maemura early, as she bogeyed her opening hole, the 145-yard par-three sixth hole.

Maemura eventually rallied to pull even five holes later before connecting on consecutive birdies on holes 12 and 13.

“It feels special to move on,” Maemura said. “You hope it will happen, but don’t know until it does.”

Word around the clubhouse prior to final tabulations was that it was likely a score of 78 that would mark the cutoff point, which left Chia, the Pacific League champion, somewhat deflated as she carded an 80.

However, when it was announced that 80 or lower was enough, Chia was partially relieved and partially thrilled.

“This was a tough, tough course and really narrow,” said Chia, who advanced to the SoCal qualifier for the third straight season. “I’ve played here before and I thought I was done.”

Fate was not on the side of the rest of the locals as Gao and Leo both carded scores of 83 and Chung finished with a 90.

“I started on the ninth hole and began with four bogeys,” Leo said. “It’s tough to come back when you start off that poorly.”

The early-morning dew presented issues for Chung, who did not anticipate the slickness of the course.

“This was my first experience here and the greens were a little bit tricky for me,” Chung said. “It was wet and the course was a lot faster than I expected.”

Gao admitted that a warm-up round earlier in the week may have aided her.

“I wasn’t really used to the course, I guess,” Gao said. “I should have played here before I came here, but I was too busy, so that hurt me.”

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