By Jesse Munoz
COC Sports Information
For The Signal
There are six weeks left in the regular season, but after an impressive showing at the annual Morro Bay North-South Invitational over the weekend, the College of the Canyons women’s golf program has its sights set on a run for the state championship.
“They played well. They have a lot of potential,” said COC head coach Gary Peterson, two days after his team took first place among the field of 14 of the state’s top programs. “If they keep working hard, it will be a good season.”
It’s already been a great start to the season.
Canyons finished the two-day 36-hole tourney in Morro Bay with a four-player score of 630 (320/310) to top runner-up College of the Desert (650-325/325) and third-place Sierra College (659-326/333) on the same course that will host the 2018 California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) state championship in November.
With four Western State Conference (WSC) victories and an impressive showing in Morro Bay, the Cougars are well on their way to the postseason.
In fact, Canyons has lost just one round so far this year. During the season-opening two-day South Coast Classic, the Cougars (290) finished one shot behind Sierra (291). However, it took a 9-under par round of 62 from Sierra sophomore Gurman Kaur on the final 18 holes to beat the Cougars.
Canyons may have found its No. 1 golfer in freshman Haruka Koda, who has earned medalist honors at two WSC events and also finished third overall in Morro Bay with a score of 154 (79/75).
“(Haruka) pounds the ball. She is a solid, mentally sharp golfer,” said Peterson about the 5-foot freshman from Japan. “It’s fun to watch her because she walks and plays with this determination that makes her seem like she is six feet tall.”
But it’s largely been the collective team performance that has carried COC to victory over the first half of the season.
On Monday, COC freshman Paige Heuer equaled her best round of the season with a score of 76. That gave the Hart High School grad a two-day total of 157 (81/76) to rank sixth in the tournament’s individual standings.
“Paige has got a really nice swing,” Peterson added. “She’s working hard at practice every day.”
Canyons freshman Jessie Lin, who was the medalist at the WSC event in Santa Barbara earlier this month, finished a stroke behind at 158 (81/77) to take seventh place.
Sophomore JoJo Roecker tied for 13th at 164 (79/85). Roecker, who serves as team captain, finished ninth overall at last year’s state championship event and also earned All-WSC honors as a freshman.
“She’s our leader out there,” Peterson said.
Sophomore Gina Chung (170-88/82) and freshman Shabana Poswal (178-92/86) weren’t far off the pace but did not factor into the scoring for Canyons this time around.
“It’s our depth that makes us special, plus we have some really talented golfers,” Peterson said. “Any of our girls have the potential to be the medalist on any given day, and as a coach, that’s a real treat to have.”
Peterson, who is in his 20th year leading the women’s program and 36th year of coaching overall at the college, definitely knows what a state title contender looks like.
He has lad the women’s program two team state championships (2001 and 2007), while his men’s golf teams have won eight state titles (1993, 2000, 2002, 2006, 2008, 2013, 2015, 2017).
“This team really reminds me of the men’s team from (2017) that won that state championship,” Peterson said. “When that happened, I kept harping on the fact that our No. four, five and six golfers won the tournament for us, because they beat every other four, five and six by 20 or 30 shots. And it’s the same thing happening here.”
Canyons will next compete at the WSC event hosted by Citrus College at San Dimas Canyon Golf Course on Monday. COC will then host its home tourney at Elkins Ranch on Oct. 8.
The conference portion of the schedule concludes Oct. 28-29 at the WSC Championships at Alisal River Golf Course in Solvang. From there, the Cougars will look to qualify for trips to both the regional and state championship events.
In talking about the daily preparation, practice and focus that will be required over the final half of the season in order to reach another championship event Peterson commented, “I told the girls, ‘we don’t win the state championship the day of the event, we win the state championship now.’”