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Gabbi Ilardi wins US Kids Golf Fall Tour title
Bulletin golf 2020
Ripon High sophomore Gabbi Ilardi shows off her first-place trophy after claiming the U.S. Kids Golf Foundation Central Valley Tour championship on Oct. 18. Photo by KARINA ILARDI

Gabbi Ilardi is keeping her grade-point average high and golf scores low amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

Although she continues to hold a 4.0, the Ripon High sophomore admits she struggles as many of her classmates do in keeping track of schoolwork and scheduling changes while distance learning. It is on the golf course where she feels the most steady. 

“With golf, I still have a sense of normalcy,” Ilardi said, adding that she has consistently trained since the statewide shutdown in March. For two months she sharpened her skills at home, whether it was with set-up and swing drills inside the house or chipping and putting in the backyard.

She was rewarded for her hard work on Oct. 18 when she secured the U.S. Kids Golf Foundation Central Valley Fall Tour championship in the girls 15-18 age group. Ilardi had a wide enough lead in the point standings going into the finale that her third-place finish at Dry Creek Ranch Golf Club in Galt was good for the overall prize.

“I was in the lead by 15 points and had just played at that course the week before, so I was comfortable going in,” Ilardi said. “I just had to put up a consistent score to maintain my lead.”

Ilardi checked in with a 7-over-par 79, tying for third with two others. She won at the same course with a 75 on Oct. 11.

The Tour's fall circuit consisted of six tournaments starting in August. Ilardi placed no worse than fifth and won two of them, collecting 140.83 points. Runner-up Rylie Kosney of Elk Grove finished with 130. They earned automatic bids to compete in the Western Cup in January at Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort. 

Ilardi also competes in the Junior Golf Association of Northern California and Junior Tour of Northern California, but for the past three months she focused on the U.S. Kids Golf events. She'll next enter the JTNC Holiday Series I Tournament at Del Monte Golf Course in Monterey on Nov. 23-24.

This is the first year that the U.S. Kids local tour has added a division for 15-18-year-olds. Last spring, she captured the Central Valley's 12-14 crown and got to compete in the World Teen Championship at Pinehurst (North Carolina).

Ilardi went on to enjoy a dominant first season with the Ripon High girls team, leading it to a second-straight outright championship in the Valley Foothill League North Division She was low medalist for both league tournaments and named VFL North Most Outstanding Player before winning the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V individual title. She's also the reigning Manteca Bulletin All-Area Girls Golfer of the Year. 

Ilardi qualified for the SJS Masters Tournament, carding a solid 83. That took place exactly a year ago on Oct. 28, 2019. 

Her next competition for golf was on June 8 in the JGANC Spring Creek Junior Championship.

“That was at my home course, so it was a good way to ease back into it,” Ilardi said.

Between those two tournaments, she played a key role in Ripon's powerhouse soccer program over the winter. After helping the JV squad run away with the Trans-Valley League title, she was called up to the varsity for its run to the SJS Division IV title match and NorCal appearance. 

Soon after the season ended, school campuses across the state were closed because of the COVID-19 outbreak. Luckily for Ilardi, golf courses were among the first facilities that were allowed to reopen in May.

“Once those two months were up I was able to get back on the course,” Ilardi said. “Being in an individual sport is kind of helpful at this time. You can still social distance and work on your game.”