Laura Williams is such a dedicated golfer that she gave up a year’s worth of her high school experience to work on her game.
The decision paid off for both her and the Ripon High girls golf team this past fall.
The Manteca Bulletin All-Area Girls Golfer of the Year helped lead the Indians to a second straight Valley Foothill League North Division championship and ended her senior campaign with a solid showing in the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Tournament.
Williams played for coach Eric Dambrosio’s team during her freshman and sophomore years, but her junior year was mostly spent at home — where she took online courses — and Spring Creek Golf & Country Club.
“Every time I’d go to Spring Creek she’d be out there three to four hours a day hitting balls, chipping and putting,” Dambrosio said. “It wasn’t like she rolled off the couch and became a great player when she came back to Ripon High.”
Williams not only sharpened her skills on the range, she also stayed busy competing in tournaments in the Junior Golf Association of Northern California circuit. It’s not where she imagined herself to be when she first started playing her freshman year. She was hooked from the start, and Williams knew at some point she’d have to ramp up her time on the course if she wants to compete beyond high school.
“I took a year off (from attending Ripon) to focus on golf,” she said. “With online courses I was able to adjust my schedule around it and practice more. I played in tournaments during the week rather than just weekend ones, and I got a whole lot of experience while doing it.”
Despite having the lowest scoring average in league, Williams finished as the VFL North’s runner-up in the individual standings, coming up a point shy of Sonora’s Megan Popovich. Williams placed third with an 82 in the mid-year league tournament and second with a 78 in the finale both at Micke Grove Golf Links.
What kept her from earning Most Valuable Player honors was teammate and good friend Alex Gonzales, who took some first-place points from Williams in dual matches.
“It’s awesome playing with her,” Williams said of Gonzales. “She’s one of my best friends; we practice together almost every day and go to each other’s houses to hang out after school. I couldn’t have asked for a better (playing partner).”
Together, they led Ripon to an undefeated finish in the VFL North. The Indians then placed second with a 470 in the SJS Division V Tournament.
“I was really excited to come back because some of the girls on the team were already some of my closest friends,” she said. “It was nice to have that team aspect again. We did really well during the season.”
Williams and Gonzales were the lone Manteca-area representatives to make the Masters tournament. To advance, they had beat VFL North foe Maddie Kindberg for the final two berths out of the divisional tourney at Micke Grove. The trio finished with 85s through 18 holes, and in on the second Williams buried a birdie putt to secure her spot and Gonzales followed with a par.
A week later at The Reserve at Spanos Park, Williams carded a 9-over-par 81.
“It was nerve-wracking,” Williams said of her only Masters appearance. “I had never played in a tournament like that before so it was scary, but it was also really fun. The girls were nice and I was already close with some of them and still talk to them now.”
Her consistent play throughout the season drew attention from college coaches. She is considering several schools, among them Simpson University, where Gonzales has already signed.
“It was definitely my goal when I started golfing my freshman year,” Williams said. “Right away I knew I wanted to play in college.
“I just really love to play. Going out and practicing is a lot of fun for me, especially getting to go out with friends and make new ones. It’s not work for me, it’s fun.”