Esther Lee from Los Alamitos watches her tee shot during the CIF-WSCGA Foundation State Girls' Golf Championship at Red Hill Country Club in Rancho Cucamonga on Tuesday.

Los Al's Lee finishes second in state tournament


RANCHO CUCAMONGA – The greens at Red Hill Country Club were running fast Tuesday and had more slope than a girls golfer usually has to cope with during the high school season.

To make the CIF State Championship even more of a challenge some of the pins were tucked away in places that were so difficult to reach that it almost seemed unfair.

“They were all on hills,” Los Alamitos senior Esther Lee said, “and it was almost impossible to stop the ball.”

The setup didn't play into Lee’s strengths right now, seeing as how she has been struggling with her putter.

Two-footers even seemed to be a challenge for her Tuesday, and even though she hit all but two greens in regulation, she carded a 1-over-par 75.

That was good enough to put her in first place for about an hour, but then Minjia Luo of Torrey Pines posted an even-par 74 and claimed the individual title. Luo also helped the Falcons finish with a 401 to win the tournament's team competition for the third season in a row. Diamond Bar finished second, 19 strokes behind.

This is the second time in two state tournaments at Red Hill CC that Lee has finished second with a 75.

“Second is not bad, but it is not first," she said. "It is a little disappointing because I feel I could have won today, but my putting was terrible. I don’t think I have putt this bad ever.

"The putt I would have coming back was longer than the one I had originally. It wasn’t a good day.”

It took more than 35 putts for Lee to complete her round. She said the greens were much tougher than when state was held here in 2010.

“I was depressed when I got to the green because everything was going good up until then,” said Lee, who will sign with Duke on Wednesday. “My tee shots were good. My approach shots were good. I didn’t have a long birdie putt. I feel no confidence standing over the ball (to putt).”

She was able to birdie the 11, 12 and 13 holes, which put her in a position to win after making the turn at 4-over-par.

The front nine seemed to be quite a challenge for everyone. Canyon senior Jessica Vasilic opened the tournament with a double-bogey after re-teeing her ball because that was the best option after her original tee shot left her with an unplayable lie.

She was at 4-over as well when she teed off on the 10th. So was her Canyon teammate Elisabeth Bernabe.

Both players posted a 1-under-36 on the back nine, though, to tie for fourth with a 3-over-par 77.

Bernabe was awarded fourth because her score on her last six holes was 24. It took Vasilic 26 stokes to complete those holes.

“I am disappointed with a 77, but it is a good score considering that the greens were super fast,” Bernabe said. “I four-putted once. But I was able to come back.”

She birdied two of the three par-5s on the back nine to drop to 2-over. From there, though, she bogeyed two of her next three holes. In between those two miscues, however, she rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt on the par-4 16th.

“If the green likes you, you will do well,” Bernabe said.

It was a bunker on the back 9, though, that stalled Vasilic’s run up the leaderboard. After starting her back nine par, birdie, birdie, par, she dropped her approach on the par-5 14th in a greenside bunker. Her lie had more rocks than sand, and her third shot sailed over the green and into the rough. She ended up taking a double-bogey.

“If I had done a practice round here, I would have realized the bunkers are super thin,” Vasilic said.

Once qualified for the state tournament, players are only allowed to learn the course by walking it the morning of the event.

“But that was a mechanical error. It is all on me,” she said.

She birdied her next two holes to come in with a 77.

“I wanted to win and that was my only goal,” she said, “so in my mind, I lost.”

Fountain Valley sophomore Lilia Vu and Yorba Linda sophomore Brooke Graebe, who took up golf just three years ago, also qualified for state. Vu posted a 4-over-par 78 and ended up in a three-way tie for sixth. Graebe carded an 83.

“I have worked so hard to get to this level,” Graebe said. “I am excited for next year. This is my first one (state tournament). It was a neat experience. I had a great year.”     

***     ***     ***

CIF State Championship

At Red Hill Country Club, par 74, Rancho Cucamonga

Team Results

1. Torrey Pines 201, 2. Diamond Bar 420, 3. Mission San Jose 439, 4. Palm Desert 440

Individual Results

1. Minjia Luo (Torrey Pines) 74, 2. Esther Lee (Los Alamitos) 75, 3. Sarah Cho (Torrey Pines) 76, 4. Elisabeth Bernabe (Canyon) 77*, 5. Jessica Vasilic (Canyon) 77; 6t. Lilia Vu (Fountain Valley) 78, 6t. Haley Moore (San Pasqual) 78, 6t. Alice Jeong (North Torrance) 78; 9. Paige Lee (Granite Bay) 79; 10t. Sandy Choi (Torrey Pines) 80; 10t. Alex Sborov (Foothill/Pleasanton) 80. Also: Brooke Graebe (Yorba Linda) 83

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