Carolyn Almeida shot a 94 on Monday at The Reserve in Stockton, the highest score on her Oak Ridge High School girls golf team competing in the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters tournament.
Yet no golfer was more instrumental to the Trojans winning the team title and moving on to next week’s Northern California championship.
Almeida spent the past four years building a family environment within Oak Ridge’s team, inviting participation and inspiring teammates to play competitively year-round. As the only senior on a 16-player roster with 14 freshmen and sophomores, her crowning achievement in a so far undefeated season was when the Trojans beat Davis by seven strokes for their first Masters title.
“She was the one who built this team, got the girls excited, inspired them to be better,” said Tony Diaz, Oak Ridge’s coach and math department chair. “She took it upon herself. She set the precedent.”
Almeida was a tennis player from a tennis family when structural issues with her feet forced her off the court in the eighth grade. She took up golf, something no one in her family had attempted, and was a natural. Not with her swing, but understanding that the sport is often about more than score.
Courtney Clark, Lexi Perry and Isabel Arnould each shot an 81 to lead Oak Ridge on Monday. Natalie Kinney shot an 87 and Emma Sand a 90. It was fitting that no Trojans player finished in the top 15 individually, given the team’s all-for-one, one-for-all mentality. And that the lineup depth Almeida helped create, and is so critical in girls golf, proved the difference.
Almeida arrived at The First Tee of Greater Sacramento tournaments the past several summers crowing about the number of Trojans – as many as 10 – in the field. Angie Dixon, who runs the First Tee events, knew something special was brewing in El Dorado Hills.
“I saw this coming a long time ago,” Dixon said of Oak Ridge’s success.
Almeida was one of two freshmen who tried out for Oak Ridge’s team four years ago. This season, there were 10. Parental support is overwhelming.
For her part, Almeida said getting people involved wasn’t about winning.
“It was about getting to know more girls and getting better together,” she said.
Monday night pizza/study sessions and Tuesday movie nights are coming to an end. Almeida, the team’s second-seeded player, hopes to play better next week in Salinas when Oak Ridge attempts to qualify for its second state championship berth, and first since 2005. Whatever the result, she will conclude her round as she always does, hoping that each of her teammates scored better than she did.
“I’m going to know these girls for the rest of my life,” she said.
▪ Vista del Lago’s Emilee Hoffman, Franklin’s Gurman Kaur and East Union’s Brooke Riley shared medalist honors at 70. Woodland Christian’s Courtney Vogel (72) also advanced to NorCals as individuals. Whitney’s Emily Dixon (73), Pleasant Grove’s Brittany O’Bryant (74) and Vista del Lago’s Noor Ahmed (74) medaled but did not advance.
▪ Oak Ridge (420), Davis (427) and Turlock (437) advanced in the team competition.
▪ Vince Toolan, a longtime member of the Dirty Dozen traveling group, a former Sacramento Golf Council member, a United States Golf Association rules official and a World War II veteran. He was 90.
▪ Les Streeper, a former head pro at Ancil Hoffman, Valley Hi and Del Paso. He was 83.
▪ Sacramento’s Spencer Levin needs to finish solo 60th or better in one of his next six PGA Tour events to satisfy the conditions of his Major Medical Extension and earn fully exempt status. He’s expected to play next week in the OHL Classic in Mexico.
▪ Roseville’s Lee Gearhart, a Chico State junior, topped 104 players to win the Rock Barn Collegiate Invitational in Conover, N.C. It was the third collegiate win for Gearhart, a Woodcreek High School graduate.
▪ Loomis’ Austin Smotherman, an SMU junior, is fifth among 72 players after two rounds of the Gifford Collegiate at CordeValle.
Call The Bee’s Steve Pajak, (916) 326-5526.