Stephanie Yu and her Palo Alto golfing teammates kept their coach Doyle Knight in the dark as they played out the Central Coast Section girls golf championships Tuesday at Rancho Canada Golf Course in Carmel.
“Throughout the day the girls kept telling me they weren't playing very well, but wouldn't give me a score,” Knight said. “I had heard Stephanie had shot one under, and I figure we would have a shot if our four and five players came in with 85s.”
Yu's 1-under 71 left her tied with four others, including Pinewood's Megan Chou, after regulation play. Two playoff holes later, Yu was the CCS champion.
“She works hard and is very hard on herself when she doesn't play well,” Knight said. “So her getting this was big. Stephanie couldn't believe it.”
Even better was the accumulation of team scores. Katherine Sung shot an 81 and Priya Bakshi brought an 82 into the clubhouse.
“Emily Hwang came in with an 83. Elise Kiya came in with an 87,” Knight said. “There were the 85s.
Stephanie and Emily's score were big. Especially Stephanie. That gave us a little leeway for higher scores. I'm very proud of her, and the other girls. I tell them 'never give up, you don't know what the other girls are doing.' You give up on one hole, one shot, one putt may cost us. They never gave up. They had to grind it out today, but it paid off.”
Palo Alto finished second with a score of 404 to qualify for the Northern California Regional at The Club at Crazy Horse Ranch in Salinas on Monday.
Chou joins the Vikings as an individual.
St. Francis won the team title with a score of 375. Valley Christian also advanced to the NorCal tournament with a 406.
Castilleja placed fifth (411) while Menlo was seventh (417) and Gunn 10th (436). The Gators were led by Niav Layton's 1-over 73, good for a top-10 finish, and Divya Tadimeti's 77.
Menlo's Sophie Siminoff shot a 74 for a 13th place finish and Menlo-Atherton's Noami Lee fired a 76 to place 17th overall.
Lydia Tsai paced the Titans with a score of 78.
The biggest celebration came after Yu was crowned the individual champ.
“The playoff was great. All the girls following Stephanie, cheering her on each shot she made,” Knight said. “She had a chance to win it on the first playoff hole but came up 6 inches short of a birdie putt. That's okay, she got it on the next hole, No. 9. Great drive, next shot was about three feet away. But it was a tricky putt. Down hill with a slight bend to it. Made it center cup. Girls went wild.”
Both Castilleja and Menlo's lineups carried a majority of underclassmen. The Gators have three sophomores heading the lineup and the Knights utilized three freshmen.
Siminoff, who was seventh last year, played another fine round, tee to green, hitting 15 of 18 greens in regulation.
She sank a birdie putt on the 17th hole and then hit two aggressive and long shots to hit the uphill par-5 18th hole in two shots.
She narrowly missed her birdie after going for her eagle putt in an attempt to finish at even par. Siminoff shot a 74 to just miss a return trip to NorCals.
It's the second season in a row that Menlo advanced as a team to CCS.
"I didn't realize how different it was having a team with you until I played NorCals alone last year," Siminoff said. "There's definitely a better vibe when you can wave to your teammates in passing holes. It's fun to be able to root for someone else in blue."
Only Siminoff and senior Lauren Yang, who played for last's year's CCS-qualifying team, had the experience of playing at the championships, but youth hardly stopped this team.
"The team this year was really strong. We had four freshmen who are all dedicated and obviously love the game plus one senior (Yang) who co-captained with me," Siminoff said. "I think having two upperclassmen helped keep a balance of maturity (we've played these kinds of events before) and new excitement from the underclassmen."