Balanced Torrey Pines makes it back-to-back CIF girls golf titles

TPHS golf team
TPHS 2021 CIF champions along with a sampling of their “headcover zoo.” L-r: Kelsie Park, Chloe Diep, Annie Zhang, Emily Zhou, Libby Fleming and Muzi Wei.
(Ken Grosse)

Sporting a gap of just 10 strokes between their top five scorers, the Torrey Pines girls golf team overwhelmed a talented field to capture its second consecutive CIF Division I Championship Thursday, June 3, at La Costa Resort.

Playing round one at Oceanside Golf Course Tuesday, June 1, the Falcons carded a 36-hole total of 776 (51 over par) to easily out-distance second place Canyon Crest Academy (102 over). Torrey Pines also finished five strokes ahead of Division II winner Mater Dei Catholic to claim the overall title. Both Torrey Pines and Mater Dei Catholic will advance to the June 15 CIF Southern California Regional Championship at Pasadena’s Brookside Golf Club. There will be no CIF State Championship this year.

Sophomore Muzi Wei was Torrey Pines' top finisher.
Sophomore Muzi Wei was Torrey Pines’ top finisher.
(Ken Grosse)

The one-sided performance was Torrey’s 10th girls title under Drake and 16th overall. Typically contested in the fall, the season was played under the cloud of Covid-19 and even the championship was effected by outside issues as one of the pre-tournament favorites, Carlsbad, was forced to withdraw from the team competition Thursday when illness left it without the minimum number of players required. The Carlsbad girls had fallen 25 strokes off the pace set by Torrey Pines in the first round but, according to Drake, their absence provided his squad with additional motivation.

“We were disappointed that Carlsbad had to drop out but didn’t want an asterisk by this,” he said. “We wanted to demonstrate that we could play and win with solid, championship caliber golf despite what was happening with other teams.

No. 2 scorer for the Falcons was 2019 individual champion Libby Fleming.
No. 2 scorer for the Falcons was 2019 individual champion Libby Fleming.
(Ken Grosse)

“It’s really an amazing accomplishment. This group of girls played their best golf at the end of the season and when they really needed to step up, they did.”

With just one senior and one junior, paired with two sophomores and two freshmen, Drake’s six-person line-up, which lost two of the top three scorers from its 2019 title group, was as balanced age-wise as it was on its scorecards.

The Falcons wound up with just one player in the Top 10, sophomore Muzi Wei who fashioned rounds of 74-77—151 to end up in a five-way tie for 10th. “Muzi is really developing into a tremendous golfer,” said Drake, “and her consistency in big events has become something we count on.”

Junior Kelsie Park was a steady performer on both days.
Junior Kelsie Park was a steady performer on both days.
(Ken Grosse)

Defending CIF individual champion Libby Fleming was two strokes back putting her 16th. Torrey’s other three scorers were freshman Annie Zhang (154/T18th), junior Kelsie Park (155/T20th) and sophomore Emily Zhou (160/T32nd).

As the reigning medalist, one might have expected some frustration from Texas Tech-bound Fleming, the team’s lone senior, but her post-tourney reaction, while candid, might have provided some insight into the success of this less experienced unit.

“When you average over two putts per hole, you can’t play good golf,” said Fleming, speaking about herself. “I know I have a good putting stroke, but I think I’ve been trying to force it too much.

La Costa Canyon's Joys Jin placed fourth individually, posting a one over par both rounds.
La Costa Canyon’s Joys Jin placed fourth individually, posting a one over par both rounds.
(Ken Grosse)

“In the past, I might have been upset but I’m less selfish now—I’m so pumped that the team won and that’s what this week was all about. I talked to the them yesterday and told them they were playing for me too, giving me a chance to make it to CIF Regionals my senior year. I’m just really thankful that they’re here.” Fleming’s development at the team level has not been lost on Drake.

“Libby has stepped up as a leader this year, pushing these girls to practice hard, get the most out of this and then play their best when it’s time to compete,” said Drake. “The focus has always been on team goals this season and her leadership has been exemplary.”

Freshman Lucy Yuan from Bishop’s was the individual trophy winner turning in a nine-under 136 (69-67) over the two days. Anna Davis of Steele Canyon was second and Carlsbad junior Meghan Royal eagled the final hole Thursday to grab third by one stroke over La Costa Canyon senior Joys Jin. Tying for 10th was junior Sofina Firouzi, the low scorer for team runner-up Canyon Crest.

Among all the success stories, it was doubtful there was anyone at La Costa happier than Drake. He ranked his golfers’ performance among the highlights of a stellar run at Torrey Pines.

“I can’t say how proud I am of this team,” said a smiling Drake. “This is probably the best win that this program has had in15 years—it was a true team victory. Six girls here playing together and seven more at home rooting for them and supporting them. It was all you could ask for.”