CIF/NCGA NorCal Regional
• Teams: St. Francis 401, Dougherty Valley, 408, Monte Vista 423, Gunn 430, Alameda 435, Palo Alto 436, Oak Ridge 447, Turlock 483, Davis 487, Red Bluff 557, Lowell 592.
• Top individuals: Yoonhee Kim, Dougherty Valley, 70; Sabrina Igbal, Pioneer, 70; Brooke Riley, East Union, 71; Kathleen Scavo, Justin-Sienna, 71; Anna Zhou, Gunn, 72; Bibilani Liu, St. Francis, 75; Sydney Babiak, 75; Samantha Gong, St. Ignatius, 76; Maya Pugatch, St. Francis, 76; Michelle Xie, Palo Alto, 78; Lexi Perry, Oak Ridge, 78; Courtney Vogel, Woodland Christian, 78.
Not even a disastrous start to her second nine could derail Brooke Riley’s round Monday morning.
The East Union junior had just finished the back nine at 1-under at The Club at Crazy Horse Ranch in Salinas, the site of the 2014 CIF/NCGA NorCal Regional. She was set up for a return appearance to the CIF State Championships at the midway point. All she had to do was not make any major mistakes. Then …
“I didn’t even think the water would come into play,” Riley said.
On the 440-yard, par-five first hole, Riley hooked her tee shot around a group of trees and watched helplessly as her ball entered the point of no return. She settled for a bogey, this after taking a bogey on 17.
“I just told myself, ‘OK, now it’s an eight-hole tournament,’” Riley said.
One she nearly won.
Riley still managed to finish in the red, firing a 1-under 71 for a two-way tie for third place and a second consecutive berth to the state tournament. She was confident her spot was secured after wrapping up the par-five ninth with a tap-in birdie.
“Going into the last hole even I wanted to finish under par really bad,” Riley said. “Birdieing that hole felt great. At the start of the day I knew that finishing under (par) would get me to state.”
Yoonhee Kim (Dougherty Valley) and Sabrina Igbal (Pioneer) were co-medalists with 70s. Kathleen Scavo (Justin-Sienna) tied Riley’s 71. St. Francis captured the team title with a 401, with Dougherty Valley (408) and Monte Vista (423) rounding out the top three state-qualifying teams. Nine individuals not part of qualifying teams also move on. Woodland Christian’s Courtney Vogel seized the final individual bid with a 78.
Riley had four birdies and three bogeys on her card.
“She played great,” East Union co-head coach Dennis Wells said. “That was some of the best ball striking I’ve seen from her in a while. The girls didn’t even get to have a practice round beforehand, so for her to shoot that is pretty amazing.”
The 96 competitors were allowed to walk the course the night before. Riley’s round began on hole 10 at around 9:10 a.m. By 10 o’clock her confidence was soaring after sinking birdies on two of her first three holes. She remained 2-under until her first hiccup on the 17th.
“The course just looks intimidating even when you’re walking it — small greens, tight fairways, hilly,” Riley said. “The first three holes were huge because it gave me confidence going into the rest of the day. I also made a nice up-and-down for par on the 11th hole that really helped. I was still trying to go lower but it gave me a nice cushion.”
The three-time Valley Oak League MVP yearns for a better showing at the state tournament. Last year she shot an 81, several shots higher than her 18-hole average, at Carmel’s Quail Lodge Golf Course.
She will confront another unfamiliar track next Tuesday, Nov. 18 at Red Hill Country Club in Rancho Cucamonga.
“It’s sweeter going back,” Riley said. “I have a chance to redeem myself after how I played last year, but I heard from other girls that (Red Hill) is extremely tough and that they had a tough time on it. We’ll only get to walk it like we did at Crazy Horse. I’m going to try and do my research on it, though.”