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Lee finishes second at CIF-SS Championship
CHINO HILLS – The first time Esther Lee saw Western Hills Country Club was when she walked onto the tee on Thursday as she tried to win CIF-SS Individual Championship for the first time in her varsity career at Los Alamitos.
And that's definitely not good way to approach an event here. The Chino Hills course is among the most difficult that girls golfer will see during the season with plenty of trees, narrow fairways and blind shots. Level lies are hard to come by here, too.
Put a tee shot in the wrong place, and a bogey can be considered a good score. Lee estimates that her inexperience cost her at least six strokes on Thursday, turning a possible victory into a runner-up finish at the CIF-SS Individual Championships.
The Los Alamitos senior got off to a fast start, however, birdying her first three holes, but she had three bogeys on the back nine to finish with a 1-under-par 71. That left her two-stokes behind first place Bethany Wu from Diamond Bar.
“I didn’t know what was a driver hole or a three-wood hole, so I struggled with that, and my shots were a bit off. I did play pretty well today,” Lee said.
Western Hills played longer than usual for the girls on Thursday, and men’s tees were used some holes. That stretched the course to about 6,200 yards.
“For me, though. That wasn’t much of a problem because I am used to playing 6,100 or 6,200 yard courses,” said Lee, an AJGA Rolex First Team All America selection and the No. 5 player in the nation in the Golfweek rankings. “Because I have played in so many big tournaments I am not really nervous. That helps me get through a bad shot because I tell myself, ‘You have done worse and still have come out with better results.’”
Lee, who recently represented the United States in the Junior Ryder Cup, and Wu were the only players to finish under par as Brea Olinda sophomore Amy Lee and Anne Cheng from Torrance tied for third with an even-par 72.
Lee finished fourth, though, after losing a one-hole playoff. She had a three-putt bogey on the par-4 No. 1 while Cheng finished with a par.
Lee had five birdies on Thursday to go along with three bogeys, a double bogey and a lost ball on the second hole she played.
“I just made a lot of stupid mistakes. I played all right,” said Lee, who won the CIF-SS Southern Individual Regional last week. “It would have been nice to medal, but I am happy that I moved on. That is what I am here for.”
The top 28 players posted a score of 80 or better have all qualified for the WSCGA CIF State qualifying tournament on Nov. 8 in Murrieta.
Lilia Vu (Fountain Valley), Elisabeth Bernabe (Canyon), Jessica Vasilic (Canyon), Madie Chou (Foothill), Avery French (Dana Hills), Joo Seo (Aliso Niguel), Christabelle Kim (Cypress) Amy Matsuoka (Corona del Mar), Jennifer Yu (Edison) and Brooke Graebe (Yorba Linda) each earned a tee time in the WSCGA event through Thursday’s tournament.
Chou became the first Foothill girls golfer to make it to the state qualifier.
The last time Bernabe played in a CIF event at Western Hills, she was the medalist in the Southern Team Regional after shooting a 7-under 65.
That day, though, she was able to go for the par fives in two because it played much shorter.
“Today, I couldn’t do that so much. I thought it was quite hard playing today,” Bernabe said.
She lost her drive in the brush running along the left side of the fairway on the 16th, and took a double bogey, which dropped her to even par. After that she bogeyed two of her last four holes to finish with a 2-over 74 to tie for seventh.
“If you didn’t hit it straight there was a lot of trouble out there. I didn’t appreciate that much,” she said.