Even though it feels like they just finished a season, the Long Beach high school girls golfers are getting back on the courses this month as the regularly scheduled 2021 season. The Moore League was able to get in a spring season after COVID-19 cancelations, and Wilson is hoping to pick up where they left off.
Wilson senior Emi Sverduk (pictured) is by far the best golfer in Long Beach this year. She won her second individual league title in May after leading the Bruins to an eighth consecutive outright team championship, and then she capped off the season by winning the CIF State Southern Regional.
“Just because I did really well last season I don’t want to have really high expectations for this year,” Sverduk said. “I just want to do my best and have fun.”
Wilson has a new coach in Paul Henry after the departure of longtime coach Jeff Evans, and the surprising passing of Kurt Holmes. Henry said he knows his team has experienced a wide range of emotions over the past two years, and he wants to keep that in consideration this season.
“This group is really tight and they’ve been through a lot so that’s really bonded them,” Henry said. “It’s a big group of girls that interacts well together. We don’t have any drama right now and they really root for each other. Its heartwarming to watch them interact well with each other.”
Sverduk is the team captain because of her individual success, but Henry also said her dedication to practice is a great example for his other players to follow.
“She’ll go out and make 3-under par like the most casual thing in the world and that’s because she works so hard,” Henry said of Sverduk. “Every time I get to the course she’s already there. And when I leave she’s still here. She works hard and it pays off.”
Sverduk, who has been visiting colleges around the country this summer, said the quick turnaround might help golfers improve faster.
“Last year I kind of had a thing going and I feel like it’s easier to continue,” Sverduk said. “Some girls don’t really practice in-between seasons but now that it’s so recent we’re not going to be as rusty coming back.”
Junior Alyson Sor is the only golfer to beat Sverduk in the league individual tournament two years ago, and she’s been working closely with her good friend during the most recent practice rounds at Recreation Park Golf Course.
“When one of them sees the other playing well they want to rise to that challenge,” Henry said. “They definitely bring the best out of each other.”
Sverduk and Sor are not very vocal leaders like Wilson has had in the past, so Henry is relying on returners Sammy Shaw, Ava Hinkle and Katie McKenna to rally the Bruins on and off the course. Shaw was named first team All-Moore League last year as a sophomore.
“I’m really letting them take the lead as to what they think is the mood of the team that day,” Henry said. “They’ve been really good at giving me feed back about what’s working and making suggestions. It’s been very helpful in this transition”
Senior Liviana Griffin will round out the starting lineup for the Bruins.
Poly has a renewed sense of energy this season with Kate Montemayor back to lead a hungry group. The sophomore qualified for CIF as an individual while being named first team All-Moore League in her first high school season.
Montemayor will be joined by sophomore Madison Williams at the top of the Jackrabbits lineup, and coach Bill Dodge said that’s not a coincidence. Montemayor and Williams routinely stay after practice rounds to play an extra nine holes together.
“You can talk about it and instill it in the kids but they actually have to want to do it and those girls want to do it,” Dodge said.
Montemayor is a pure ball striker who has been working on improving her short game, and Williams has shown massive improvement since joining the program.
Returning senior Kiaya Ervin is in her fourth year on the team and is back to be a leader this season. Junior Madison Apodaca has also shown great leadership in the short offseason, and incoming freshman Molly McGovern could surprise some people.
Millikan is in a tough spot after graduation its entire lineup from last season. The only two players on the roster with limited experience are junior Sydney Guevara and sophomore Monique Thomas. Both are trying to get more consistent off the tee, and 23-year coach Robert Tomlin said he’s looking for his other players to win starting spot by doing the same thing.
“It’s all about who sticks out and handles the longer courses because that’s the main issue with any girls golf team,” Tomlin said. “They grow up playing the shorter courses like Heartwell or Recreation Park 9 and then they’re a ninth grader and they’re supposed to start playing bigger courses and they’re just not used to it. So much of it is course management and their short game.”
Tomlin said freshman Morgan Nowak and sophomore Natalia Garcia lead the group of newcomers that will try to help Millikan reach the CIF postseason for seventh consecutive season.
Lakewood is also rebuilding its roster after not having any offseason practice rounds together for the first time in 20 years. Coach Tom Busch will rely on senior team captains Samantha Holdridge and Samantha Vong to lead young squad that has some exciting new players on it like sophomore Jazmyne Pan. However, he said he’s keeping his expectations realistic.
“A successful season will honestly be one that includes us having a full squad for all scheduled matches,” Busch said. “My goals are to grow the program as we are down to less than 10 participants.”
The Moore League schedule starts today as Wilson hosts Poly at Recreation Park Golf Course.
St. Anthony took third place in the newly expanded seven-team Del Rey League last season and is trying to improve on that finish. The Saints won the league title in 2018. Juniors Hazel Castro and Stephanie Arenas are the key returners from last season, and freshman Victoria Valenzuela who has averaged two-over par in her first matches. Senior Charlotte Marquez and Sophomore Julia Klenk will also be key players this season.