MORRO BAY - Defending 2018 state champion College of the Canyons will be the team to beat when the top female community college golfers tee it up this Sunday and Monday on the Morro Bay Golf Course for the 2019 California Community College Women's Golf State Championship tournament.
Canyons won last year's state title by 18 strokes over runner-up College of the Desert, posting four-person team scores of 309 and 306 for a two-day total of 615. The Cougars were led by freshman Haruka Koda with a 1-under-par 143.
Koda was the individual runner-up a year ago and returns this weekend in the hopes of taking home the individual title as well as helping her team repeat for the team title. No team has won back-to-back women's golf state titles since Mt. San Antonio College did it during the 2004 and 2005 seasons. Koda's Cougar teammates Jessie Lin, Paige Heuer, and Shabana Poswal also return this year after helping to hoist the state title trophy last year.
Canyons will have plenty of teams in hot pursuit as 2017 state champion Modesto Junior College has five returning players back from last year's team which finished seventh at the state championship. Natalie Cowan led the Pirates at last year's state championship with a 166 to tie for 21st individually. Samantha Smedshammer posted a 159 at last week's Northern California regional to help pace Modesto to a second place finish and a return to this week's state championship event.
Reedley College captured the Northern regional by four strokes over Modesto as freshman Monica Yu led the Tigers with a 157. Serena DiMauro and Serena Garcia both have state championship experience as Reedley placed fifth at last year's tournament. DiMauro tied for 10th overall with an 11-over-par 155. Sierra College finished third at last year's state tournament and Melanie Anderson is back from that team. She was the medalist at last week's Northern regional with a 12-over-par 156.
Canyons will also be challenged by a trio of Southern California teams in College of the Desert, Saddleback, and Santa Barbara City College. Desert was the runaway winner of the Orange Empire Conference this season after finishing as the state runner-up a year ago. The Roadrunners only have one returning player from their 2018 team – Lilyanna Rodriguez – and stumbled a bit at last week's regional, but the third place finish earned the team a return trip to this year's state tournament.
Saddleback finished second at the Southern regional and have four players with state tournament experience. The Gauchos are led by sophomore Katie Stribling who finished fourth individually last year with a 4-over-par 148 while Sunhae Son, Tomoko Kim, and Anna Stowers are each looking to help Saddleback improve on last year's sixth place finish at the state championship.
Santa Barbara City College edged past Mt. San Antonio College in last week's Southern regional, 702-706, to grab the final spot. The Vaqueros only have one returner in Alexa Bleth but she placed sixth overall at last year's state event with a 9-over-par 153.
The only newcomer to this year's state championship is San Joaquin Delta College which edged past Sacramento City College, 717-721, to earn the final spot out of the Northern region.
This marks the sixth consecutive year that the two-day, 36-hole championship will be held on the tricky Central Coast course. Play begins on Sunday at 8:30 a.m. with a shotgun start for the field of 60 golfers and will conclude on Monday with a 9:00 a.m. shotgun start. The awards ceremony will take place on Monday in the clubhouse at 3:00 p.m. Admission is free and spectators will be allowed to walk the course but must remain on the cart paths or in the rough. Spectators are not allowed to walk with the competitors or talk with the competitors during the round.
(Jerry Hannula for the CCCAA)