By Ryan Menzie
Signal Sports Writer
In the midst of the Division 2 girls golf CIF playoffs, which featured the West Ranch Wildcats and Valencia Vikings, the Wildcats’ Eunice Yi and the Vikings’ Jillian Leh also competed in the individual playoffs on Nov. 4 at River Ridge as the top two players from the Foothill League. The same day, Yi and Leh also competed in the team qualifier for the Southern California championship.
“It’s about (Eunice) taking it one stroke at a time,” said Wildcats head coach Jeff Holen. “In the individual qualifier, she came down the stretch and didn’t let anything phase her. She is a mature golfer that understands what she needs to do. Her growth has continuously gone in a vertical movement and she gets better in each round she goes out to play.”
Yi led all golfers in the Foothill League with 178 strokes and finished with Player of the Year honors while Leh finished with 180 strokes. Yi moved into the individual championship qualifier with 70 strokes at Los Robles Greens while Leh shot a 74, both of which were enough to advance.
To advance to the third round, both girls needed to place in at least the top 28. Yi would answer by scoring a 75, three-over par by playing it safe instead of risking heroic shots, and finishing out her last two holes to make the cut. Leh would shoot an 83, ultimately ending her playoff run.
“Individuals were a great experience for (Jillian) this year,” said Vikings head coach Robert Waters. “She advanced further than she did last year, which proves she is maturing and progressing as a player. She got a chance to experience what it is like to compete with some of the best players in the country.”
Yi’s next round of competition was scheduled on Thursday at Brookside Golf Club, where she had to finish in the top nine in order to continue her playoff run and qualify for the state championship. Yi playing at Brookside marked the furthest a Wildcat girls golfer had gone since Zoe Campos in 2017. Campos would go on to win the CIF state individual title.
“I’m really happy and excited that I can play in the next round,” said Yi before her final match. “I know a lot of my friends from outside tournaments and outside of school are also competing so it is really cool to be able to advance with them. I was very scared coming into the tournament knowing that this year is much harder than other years. I’m just gonna try to do what I’ve been doing and make sure to keep practicing and not slack off.”
There were 116 girls who competed at Brookside Golf Club. Unfortunately for Yi, she finished 45th overall in the third round, finishing four over par, and was unable to make the cut for the state finals. Yi would hang around at about one over par for a majority of the day but needed to get to one under in order to compete in playoffs for the top nine spots.
Despite the season coming to an end for Yi, and for the rest of the Foothill League, Yi’s maturity will help propel her to a new level next season as she returns for her senior year and will hopefully be able to qualify for the top nine, according to Holen.
“You really couldn’t tell how she was doing,” said Holen after Yi’s final match. “She’s not an emotional golfer so if she made a mistake, she would just shrug it off. At the end of the day, for these girls it’s just high school golf. I just wanted her to go out and have fun. While most kids are in school, we are out here playing golf. This will be a learning experience for her for the rest of high school as well as preparation for the college level.”