Nathan Mollat/Daily Journal
Aman Sanga tees off in her PAL championship win.
No one playing in the Peninsula Athletic League girls’ golf championship at Poplar Creek Golf Course Tuesday admitted to wanting to win.
“I just want to shoot a good score,” is a common refrain.
And for the second year in a row, the best score put up by San Mateo’s Aman Sangha proved to be the top mark. Sangha, a sophomore and defending PAL champion, shot a 3-over 74 to lead the field in capturing her second straight PAL title and qualifying for the Central Coast Section tournament.
Sangha said her goal wasn’t necessarily to defend her title, but to play as well as she could.
“It would be really good if I won it again, but it doesn’t really matter,” Sangha said. “I just wanted to play as well as I can.”
Sangha, the tournament’s top seed, was the most consistent player on the course. She went out with a 37 on the front nine and matched that score on the back nine.
If anything, Sangha was a little disappointed not to shoot a lower score. She had to settle for par on the par-3 15th, despite having a 10-foot putt for birdie. She followed that with a bogey on the par-4 16th when she just missed her par putt. She finished her round par-par on the 17th and 18th holes.
“I had some opportunities to make putts (that I didn’t),” Sangha said.
That would be the same refrain Aragon’s Kelly Fang had after firing an 8-over 79 to finish third.
Fang, a junior, now has a championship (her freshman year), a runner-up finish (last year) and now a third-place medal.
“I was playing really well. Only my putting screwed me up today,” Fang said. “I’m not disappointed in not winning. I set a goal for myself. I wanted to be 77 or better. …I’m more disappointed I didn’t meet my goal.”
Fang had a chance to finish with a flourish, having a chance at birdie on three of her final four holes, but finished with a pair of pars and a pair of bogeys.
The big surprise of the day, however, was the play of Aragon’s No. 2 golfer, Valerie Chen, who was in the day’s second group. Chen had been coming on of late, Aragon coach Guy Oling said, and Chen put it all together with a 4-over 75, to finish one shot behind Sangha.
“This is actually my best score of all time,” Chen said. “I guess I’m pretty lucky it came on the day of PALs. I didn’t think I was going to shoot a 75.”
Oling wasn’t shocked by Chen’s performance.
“She’s really come on strong the last week or two. She’s played some really focused golf and stepped it up,” Oling said. “She’s been on a hot streak.”
Rounding out the top four was Burlingame junior Allie Economou, who shot an 81.
That means the top four finishers included three juniors and a sophomore. The PAL is loaded with young talent as there was not one senior who finished in the top 10, yet there were three freshmen who did.
Rounding out the top-10 were: fifth-place Naomi Lee (freshman, Menlo-Atherton), sixth-place Lisa Sasaki (junior, San Mateo), seventh-place Tessa Ulrich (freshman, Aragon), eighth-place Abbey Pederson (freshman, Menlo-Atherton), ninth-place Brooke Williams (junior, Half Moon Bay) and 10th-place Ashley Utz (junior, Menlo-Atherton).
While the PAL championship was decided Tuesday, the rest of the qualifiers for the CCS tournament were not. In previous years, the leagues had a pretty good idea of who would qualify based on a number of factors.
This year, however, CCS changed the qualification rules. Now, PAL golf chairman Jimmy Ikeda, who is also the San Mateo coach, will submit all the scores to CCS and wait to hear who — other than the members of the Aragon team, which captured the PAL team title and an automatic CCS berth, and Sangha — qualified from the PAL for CCS.
Ikeda expects to know by Thursday night or Friday morning.
“Now it’s wait and see,” Ikeda said.
The seven league champion teams from the seven leagues that compete in CCS all qualify for the CCS tournament in Carmel next week. League champions not on those qualifying teams also make it into the tournament. CCS will then take the next 23 best at-large marks.
If it sounds convoluted, it is.
“In the past, (a round of) 88 was a qualifier,” Ikeda said. “But what I think they (CCS) wants to do is strengthen the field, so they only take the top 23 (individuals not on teams).”