Ever since Jennifer Kim first picked up a golf club five years ago, she's loved how much the sport has taught her about life off the course.
"Golf teaches you about everything: life, morals and values," said Kim, a sophomore at La Cañada High and leader of the Spartans girls' golf team. "I learn how to be a well-rounded person through it."
Kim can feel free to call herself a "well-rounded player." Not only has she played at a high level this year, as well as last season, but she's emerged as a leader of her team as an underclassman.
"Jennifer leads by example," Spartans Coach Rich Wheeler said. "She isn't the most boisterous; it's a calm leadership she brings. She does what's necessary very quietly, and the team follows her example."
An example of continued improvement was established by Kim that the rest of Spartans picked up on. She improved her 18-hole scoring average from 82 in 2009 on the co-ed team to 77.2 this year. With Kim as an example, most of her teammates trimmed their averages by 10 strokes, Wheeler said.
Kim first made a name for herself last year on La Cañada's co-ed golf team by becoming the first female to play in the Rio Hondo League championship. This year, Kim and her teammates are moving on to bigger things, as they competed in the CIF Southern Section playoffs on Wednesday.
When news spread that a girls' golf team being formed at La Cañada, Kim didn't exactly know how to feel.
"At first I was kind of against it because I thought it meant less competition," Kim said. "I thought it was going to be too easy, but it wasn't; it was completely the opposite."
One of the keys to the Spartans' success this year has been their relaxed approach.
"We are just trying to have fun," Kim said. "That's our team motto and it's been working out, I think."
Without a doubt. La Cañada made it through its first regular season without a blemish (13-0) and the six-varsity starters combined for an 18-hole average of 90.6.
Kim's performance in her team's breakout campaign earned her a trip to the Individual Freelance Tournament featuring 10 players, including her freshman teammate, Melissa Leo.
In that event, golfers with the three best scores moved on in the postseason. Kim finished her round with an 81, which was good enough for a third-place tie with Sachi Hamada of Sunny Hills. Both competed in a one-hole tiebreaker to decide who would advance.
Hamada had a great third shot, dropping the ball right next to the hole for an easy putt. Kim was unable to match it, finishing the hole with a three-putt. Although Kim was disappointed with her performance, she isn't going to let it affect her in the team's postseason run.
When the playoffs begin, the team will stick to their formula for success.
"We never really said, 'Let's win this,' " Kim said. "We want to have fun and enjoy ourselves. That's the most important thing."