Valencia clinches third consecutive Empire League championship

PLACENTIA – Valencia girls golf coach Mark Castillo has never done anything like this before, be he thought the Tigers earned a special gift after beating Cypress, 230-242, on Thursday at Alta Vista Country Club.

The triumph clinched the Tigers’ third consecutive Empire League championship, so Castillo is having special T-shirts made to commemorate the occasion.

“Winning the championship means a lot to the girls,” he said. “They were nervous before the match.”

The Tigers (13-1, 8-0) had reason to be concerned. They were missing their No. 3 player, Khushi Patel. She banged heads with another girl while running down the court during basketball practice and suffered a concussion. She had to sit out Thursday’s match with Cypress and might not be able to start Monday’s Empire League finals at Dad Miller Golf Course, Castillo said..

Brittany Park, though, was in the lineup, and as usual, she posted the low score for the Tigers, carding a 1-under par 36 to share medalist honors with Christine Perez, who finished with a 36 for Cypress (10-4, 6-2).  Park has been on all three of the Tigers’ Empire League championship teams.

“I am really proud of our team. It was a real team effort. It is not just me that can shoot the low score,” said Park, who has committed to Brown. “This is good for our school, and it shows that our team worked very hard this season.”

Park finished her final varsity season with a 36.2 scoring average while playing on a par 37 home course.

She said she was surprised with how well she did this season, considering her heavy AP class load

“But I have learned throughout the years to manage my time better where I can efficiently do my homework and still go to matches and practices,” she said.

Park missed a match once this season, and the Tigers fell to Sonora, the only blemish on Valencia’s record this season.

“I have grown a lot on my mental game, too, and I think that really helped,” she said.

Playing in the same CIF-SS regional with teams such as No. 1 University and No. 3 Beckman, Park knows it will be extremely difficult for the Tigers to win, but she does have a good chance to make it to the CIF State Championship for the first time.

She came very within a stroke of advancing to the prestigious tournament as a sophomore, losing in a sudden death playoff in the WSCGA state qualifier.

“That was really heartbreaking,” Park said. “But this year, I think my game has really sharpened, and I am really hoping that I think I can make it to state.”

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