Girls’ golf lines up for MCALs with help from seniors

China Granger

The return of coach Kelly Smith and top player Grace Garcia, supplemented by the camaraderie of the team, has carried the girls’ golf team through a so far undefeated season, and a chance at a historic MCAL championship.

If the girls’ golf team placed first at MCALs, it would not only bring an end to Justin Siena’s five year reign as MCAL champions, but also be the first time in Redwood history.

Despite experience as a player herself and throughout her professional career, Smith began coaching only a year ago.

“I had never coached high school golf before. It was a new challenge,” said Smith, who is a PGA Professional and Assistant Golf Pro at the Richmond Country Club.

Preparing to hit the ball, senior Grace Garcia lines up her shot. Garcia showed her leadership skills this year by becoming a captain and helping the new players become familiar with the game.

Preparing to hit the ball, senior Grace Garcia lines up her shot. Garcia showed her leadership skills this year by becoming a captain and helping the new players become familiar with the game.

While two seasons might not seem like a long time, this is the first year any of the current girls on the Redwood golf team have had the same head coach two years in a row. For the current seniors who have played since they were freshmen, Smith is their third coach in four years.

According to team captain and four-year player Julia Waddington, Smith is able to offer even more insights about Redwood’s competition coming into her second season.

“Now she really knows the other teams, the coaches, what they’re capable of and what

you need to do to be the top team,” Waddington said.

As a senior, Garcia will be entering her second year on the team after being unable to play her freshman and junior years due to a torn ACL and then conflicts with the Tamiscal TEAM program, respectively.

Sophomore year, Garcia started off as number three, but worked her way up during the season to the team’s number one. This season, as a senior captain, Garcia has one clear goal in mind: to win MCALs.

While also optimistic about MCALs, as a coach, one of Smith’s goals is to create a strong sense of team in a largely individual sport.

“[Smith] really wanted [Waddington] and I to get the girls motivated and believe we can win MCALs, because we can,” Garcia said.

For freshman Cambry Weingart, the captains play a large part in encouraging and inspiring all the team’s members.

“Having role models on the team, it’s so much easier to see what you want to shape up to,” Weingart said.

The captains and seniors have proved to be such large role models for Weingart that she finds herself picturing them during games to improve her swing.

“I picture either my mom or mostly [Waddington] and [Conte] since they’re such good players,” Weingart said. “It just sort of calms me down and gets my head back in the game.”

In high school matches, each team is allowed six players, of which four scores count towards an overall score. According to Smith, she has played at least one of the three freshmen in every match this season, mostly rotating them between the five and six spots.

“I’ve played almost everyone in the matches, and I think that creates a different camaraderie on the team, in that everyone has a shot going into every match,” Smith said.

To accustom younger players with the sport, Smith has encouraged players with more experience to work with the team’s three freshmen.

“[The seniors] have gained their experience and now their role is to pass that experience on to everyone else,” Smith said.

According to four-year player Sam Conte, when she joined the golf team her freshman year, she was shy and intimidated by the skill of the upperclassmen.

“The seniors were so good my freshman [year] and it was sort of like they were ‘untouchable,’” Conte said.

This year though, it seems that the seniors are more focused on connecting with younger players, according to Conte and Waddington.

“[The freshmen] know that we’re all friends and we just want to help them get better,” Waddington said.

Between practices four times week at the Richmond Country Club and additional rounds played on the weekends, this year’s team has become a group of close-knit teammates and friends.     

“By knowing that each player has to do their part to help the team win, I try to stress that we win as a team,” Smith said.

With such a strong lineup of seniors, it is unclear how the team will do after a third of its members graduate. However, most team members are optimistic that the winning streak will continue. Both Waddington and Garcia believe that this year’s juniors will be able to lead the team in their absence.

“One of our juniors right now, Katie [Levy], has improved so much from last year. Nina Cinelli has been playing in the top six since she joined last year and knows all the teams and what’s expected of her,” Waddington said. “I’m expecting them to step up next season, as well as the freshmen.”