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OC players poised to win state
Five players from Orange County have qualified for the most prestigious tournament in high school girls golf, and three of them are among the favorites to leave Red Hill Country Club today in Rancho Cucamonga with the CIF State championship.
Esther Lee (Los Alamitos), Elisabeth Bernabe (Canyon) and Jessica Vasilic (Canyon) played in the same tournament at the same course two years ago as sophomores with Bernabe and Lee both placing inside the top five. Lee came in second, finishing one shot out of the lead. It was while Lee was on the driving range, warming up for a potential playoff that Grace Na from Alameda carded a 74 to move into first by herself.
Vasilic struggled that day at Red Hill CC, posting an 80. But she enters today’s state championship after winning the WSCGA So Cal Regional five days ago at The Golf Club at Rancho California with a 6-under 66.
All three players have a rare advantage over the field in a state tournament because they have seen this course before. Under the CIF rules, practice rounds are not permitted once a player is qualified. All they can do to check out the nuances of the course is walk it the morning of the tournament.
Bernabe has teed off at Red Hill three times – in the CIF State championship, a U.S. Girls qualifier and a recent practice round with a member. The later was legal because she played it before earned a spot in the state tournament.
Bernabe said there are some “tricky holes and yardages there,” and a player “has to know the secrets of Red Hill” to post a low score there. Bernabe said the course hasn’t changed much at all since the state tournament was last held there in 2010.
“What has changed most is me. I feel like I hit it father, so I am able to hit some shots that I couldn’t before,” she said. “That is why I needed the practice round there. I am happy to have experienced Red Hill before.”
Yorba Linda sophomore Brooke Graebe and Fountain Valley sophomore Lilia Vu have also qualified for state. This is the second consecutive year that Vu has made it to the tournament. She tied for eighth last season as a freshman after posting a 4-over-par 76 at Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach.
“I feel more prepared this year. Last year I was very nervous,” Vu said.