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Turlock Tee Birds win Central Valley, preparing for Tournament of Champions
tee birds
From left to right are Marlene Hendrickson, Jodi Karambela, Elaine Garcia, Cory Rucker, Laurel Pruitt and Peggy Jenkin, who all participated in the Tee Birds championship run. - photo by Photo Contributed

The Turlock Tee Birds have been playing golf at the Turlock Golf & Country Club for more than 30 years, combining competition and fun with weekly runs of the course and friendly wagering. Currently comprised of women aged 49 to 80, the Tee Birds play golf year-round. For most, it’s their time to have fun.

But from the months of April to August, the Tee Birds sharpen their competitive edge for the Women’s Nine Hole Golf Association season where they join 12 other clubs in the Central Valley Division, one of four regional divisions that span across Northern California.

With a season that included eight tournaments, the Tee Birds compete with players from neighboring clubs like Del Rio, Merced, Oakdale, and Woodbridge — all chasing a spot in the Team Play Championship which features the best clubs from all four divisions.

This year, after winning the Central Valley Division, the Turlock Tee Birds tied for first place at the Team Play Championships on Aug. 12 before ultimately taking second place after coming up one stroke short to Del Rio in the tie breaker.

“It’s very exciting,” Tee Birds team captain Jodi Karambela said. “To the best of anybody’s recollection, we had never won the championship in the Central Valley Division.”

The season’s finish was a treat for all 15 members of the team, but make no mistake about it, competitive play has continued as the club is currently holding its own three-round Tournament of Champions. At the conclusion of the inter-club tournament, the top four players will be sent to play in the WNGA’s Tournament of Champions which will be held at Rancho Murieta Country Club on Oct. 2.

The inter-club tournament will also serve to separate players into their respective flights.

“Everyone has a handicap based on ability and we have three different flights,” Karambela said. “There are two players on each flight and they play again people at their experience level.”

When the WNGA Tournament of Champions is over, the Tee Birds will return to friendly play at the TGCC where they will enjoy each other’s company, wait for the beginning of the 2014 WNGA season, and welcome any newcomers who would like to join.

“Anybody can join at any time. And if you don’t have a handicap, we’ll help you establish a handicap and you can be one of us,” Karambela said. “This is my third season playing. The Nine-Holes welcomes newer golfers as well as experienced golfers. It’s very welcoming.”

Prospective Tee Birds players must be 18 years or older and must be a TGCC member.