It didn’t take long for Gabbi Ilardi to feel at home with the Ripon High girls golf team this past season, and the Indians appear to be even stronger moving forward in their dynastic reign in the Valley Foothill League North Division.
Ilardi is the Manteca Bulletin All-Area Girls Golfer of the Year after leading Ripon to its second straight outright league championship and fourth in five seasons under head coach Eric Dambrosio, and she garnered plenty of individual accolades along the way.
“It was a great experience, especially coming in as a freshman,” Ilardi said. “The upper classmen were really welcoming. Being exposed to these new tournaments and playing twice a week against these girls I didn’t know, that helped my golf game too because I was comfortable around (teammates) and it helped me relax.
“I grew extremely close with them, and it was a great experience having success overall with such a great group. I’m going to miss a lot of them but still looking forward to future seasons with the girls who are coming back.”
Ilardi and the Indians blew out the competition in VFL play. She was low medalist for both league tournaments held at Micke Grove Golf Links, carding a 4-over 76 in the finale. Teammate Bianca Toledo was runner-up with an 86.
Ilardi was named VFL North Most Outstanding Player, following in the footsteps of older brother Nico who earned MVP and Most Outstanding in the Trans-Valley League last spring. Their parents, Rome and Karina, are also avid golfers.
“My brother is a huge inspiration to me as a student-athlete,” Gabbi said. “I only play two sports and he’s had major success in all three sports (golf, basketball, football) so I look up to him and his work ethic. Not only does he play sports, but he has maintained good grades, is part of the band, leadership and extracurricular activities. Overall, he’s a role model to me in everything he does.”
Little sis, currently a standout on Ripon’s junior varsity soccer team, is penning her own high school success story.
After league, she went on to claim the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V Tournament individual title with a 12-over 84 at Auburn Valley Golf Club, edging out Gabi Franco of Delta Charter by a stroke. Ripon narrowly missed out on advancing to the SJS Masters Tournament as a team, placing second with a 493 behind Bear River’s 488.
“That was extremely fun,” Ilardi said. “I know a lot of the girls from other schools who are my age (via the junior golf circuit), so to play with some of them was cool, and to be able to win a section title as a freshman gave me a lot more confidence.”
She was one of just three Manteca-area players to qualify for Masters and ended her rookie season with a solid 83 at The Reserve at Spanos Park where her teammates joined in as spectators.
Ilardi wasn’t nervous going into it given her tournament background, and she chalked it up as another good learning experience. Over the summer, she competed in the U.S. Kids Golf World Teen Championship at Pinehurst and ended with a tie for 26th place out of 58 entrants with a three-day score of 84-87-80—251.
“I went to North Carolina for U.S. Kids Golf and some of the best (youth) golfers in the world were there, but for junior golf I play against girls my own age,” Ilardi said. “There were a lot of good golfers at Masters as well, and there are girls from all four grade levels so I got to compete with these seniors who had already qualified for Masters in the past.
“I learned a lot because I saw how different their games are, and I noticed that the older players have a stronger mental game and that’s something I need to focus on.”
MVP: Gabbi Ilardi, Ripon, Fr.
Melinda Amick, East Union, Jr.
Zoe Bremer, Ripon, So.
Madi De Graaf, Ripon Christian Sr.
Michelle Euan, East Union, Jr.
Mikaella Manto, Sierra, So.