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Swinging for achievements

Pitman, Turlock, Hilmar golfers prepare for successful runs

Swinging for achievements

Kelsie Valenzuela is one of the key components of the Turlock High girls golf team, one that hopes to earn another Central California Conference title.

POSTED September 2, 2011 11:16 p.m.

Golf is one of those sports that looks effortless. Actually, it might be the most effortless-looking sport in the world, seeing that golfers don’t sweat as much as, say, basketball and football players.

Like, the other afternoon: Turlock High girls golfer Kelsie Valenzuela was casually working on her putting at the Turlock Golf and Country Club. But don’t be misled. It takes a tremendous amount of quiet determination and practice to be successful in her sport.

Need some proof? Valenzuela and the rest of her Turlock teammates spent all afternoon putting, swinging and hitting hundreds of golf balls in order to get their technique just right. Why?

Because the 2011 high school girls golf season is here.

Of course, Turlock High isn’t the only school that offers girls golf in the area. Pitman High and Hilmar High are also getting ready for a season of traveling to golf courses around the state and competing with the best golfers around. Each team, as it is every season, has its own unique storyline — two of them center on the idea of maintaining a championship presence, while the other is about team chemistry and hard work.

Denair High and Turlock Christian High do not offer girls golf, but those schools, and schools in similar situations, can have girls compete individually in the postseason. TC’s Esther Rojas, the younger sister of San Jose State women’s golfer Kathleen Rojas, and Kaylyn King might be two individuals to attempt postseason runs.

Turlock, perhaps, has the most to live up to. Seven consecutive Central California Conference championships create that kind of outlook. The Bulldogs, undoubtedly, are planning to once again rule their league and earn that eighth straight title.

The Bulldogs have to do it with only one senior, last season’s CCC MVP Emma Mendes. The other key golfers include “five returning juniors, all of whom are good, steady golfers that make us dangerous,” Turlock coach Mary Krupka said. Those weapons are: Hannah Gong, Zara Lopez, Lexi Lucero, Darcy Woods and Valenzuela, who tirelessly worked on her putting on a recent hot afternoon.

That “dangerous” group has claimed two league champions and a collection of all-league accolades.

“They are hungry to get Emma her fourth championship, as well as their third,” said Krupka, who started her Turlock coaching campaign eight years ago with a league loss but has not suffered that same fate since. “No need to dangle a carrot in front of this group of juniors. They are more than motivated to keep THS on top.”

The Bulldogs’ crosstown rival, Pitman, is also motivated. The Pride’s leader is senior Isabella Mata, who will have support from junior Sienna Samra and sophomore Sheyenne Sousa. Newcomers and juniors Anne Courtney and Kristina David, along with true high school beginner and freshman Elizabeth Sommerville, are expected to contribute.

“Expectations are high after a very successful preseason,” Pitman coach Ken Stangl stated. “The team has great chemistry and the girls have worked very hard all summer on their own.”

A few miles away in Hilmar, and outside of the Division I landscape are the Yellowjackets, who want to repeat last season’s success of capturing the Valley Foothill League Southern Division title with a 15-1 record. They welcome back members of that winning bunch, including Keeley Pettigrew, Courtney Youngborg, Janet Jones, Carlee Pearce and Leah Kollmeyer.

“I am expecting to compete for the championship again this year,” Hilmar coach Ty Pettigrew said. “Our main competition for this title will be Hughson and Millennium (of Tracy).”

How are the Yellowjackets going to go about earning another league title?

With hard work, of course, no matter how effortless it looks.

To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.

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