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Golden Valley golf: Goodbye yesterday

After years of struggle, Golden Valley girls golf is ready to compete now

Posted: September 18, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: September 18, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Golden Valley golfers, from left, Ashley Pfenning, Kaitlyn Thayer, Elisa Pierra, Amanda Hobbs, Illeana Dullas and Gabby and Camille Mendoza are looking for a breakthrough this year.

 

It was nearly one year ago to the day.

On Sept. 20, 2011, Golden Valley girls golf finished in fourth place at the Foothill League’s first match of the season.

Fourth out of six teams is not something to crow about for most teams, but for the Grizzlies, it was a major accomplishment. And something to roar about.

Since the varsity program began in 2006, Golden Valley had never finished above fifth place in any league match. In fact, there were times where the Grizzlies struggled to get enough qualifying scores to even register a team score for Foothill League matches.

“I feel like people looked down on us because we didn‘t establish anything or didn’t have, shall I say, accomplished golfers,” says Golden Valley varsity girls golf coach Tony Moskal. “We were a beginning program with a lot of beginning golfers. We struggled to learn the game and it was apparent.”

The golf program was very much a reflection of the school itself. Since Golden Valley opened its doors in 2005, its athletic programs have struggled and continue to struggle with only a few finding success.

The school’s cross country, track and field and boys basketball programs have had the most success, highlighted by the boys cross country 2011 CIF state championship.

Other programs are inching toward success, but golf has slowly trailed behind.

Until recently.

Last season was a major breakthrough.

The team finished fourth overall in Foothill League play and sent its second golfer in school history to the CIF individual postseason — junior Amanda Hobbs.

Now the Grizzlies are poised to make their first-ever postseason team appearance.

The reasons for their newfound successes start with Hobbs, but include a variety of others.

Included in that is a commitment from other veteran Grizzly golfers, a passionate and competitive coach, an off-campus mentor and Grizzly cub.

That cub is just 14 years old, having celebrated a birthday on Aug. 6. But that golfer is the most celebrated golfer to ever golf for Golden Valley.

Freshman Elisa Pierre, who has been playing competition golf since she was 8 years old, is expected to come in and challenge for an individual playoff spot this season (the league’s top eight golfers move on to the postseason).

“I think when she was really little, she was paying her dues out there,” says her private golf coach Lee Breckenridge.

“I give her so much credit. She’s out there every day. She’s very driven. I can have the greatest ideas, but you need a kid who works hard and has a supportive family.”

Pierre is described by many as an advanced and intelligent golfer who has a great touch from all parts of the course.

Breckenridge, who has taught some of the great girls golfers in the Santa Clarita Valley over the last 15 years — names like Melanie De Leon, Stevy Loy and Nikki Prichard — to name a few, says Pierre already talks about playing golf in college.

It’s that commitment to the game that doesn’t just stop with Pierre.

It goes for the other girls on the team who followed in Pierre’s and Hobbs’ footsteps and sought help from Breckenridge, who is considered one of the valley’s premier teachers.

As a freshman, Hobbs picked up the clubs and started seeing Breckenridge.

Senior Ashley Pfenning (who tied for 19th overall in league last year), junior Illeana Dullas (T19), junior Gabby Mendoza (28th), and her sister and sophomore Camille Mendoza all receive lessons from Breckenridge.

After Hobbs, Golden Valley has another solid returner this year in senior Kaitlyn Thayer, who finished 15th overall last year.

All this talent has brought in an attitude change as well.

“Freshman year it was very, ‘Let’s go to golf for fun. Let’s have a good time, even though we’re not going to win.’ It was very laid back and go out and do whatever,” Hobbs says. “Now, our team has become so much more focused and motivated to practice. We’re more of a team and all friends. We’re going out to have fun on a golf course, but we go out to win and seek to win.”

With Pierre, Golden Valley has a player who knows little of its past and hasn’t experienced the lows, which could be a good thing.

“I knew some of it. I knew kind of what the girls shot and how they did last year. But I knew about Moskal and knew about Amanda,” Pierre says. “I just want to try and do our best. I want to see us work hard and know we’re trying our hardest.”

Moskal will ensure that happens because he knows what he has.

One of the Santa Clarita Valley’s most passionate sports figures and a part-time high school football color commentator for Fox Sports West, Moskal is opinionated and ultra-competitive.

Though he’s relaxed with his girls, there isn’t anything he wants more than to see them succeed. And that means he wants to see his girls — collectively — in the postseason.

Consider this, Golden Valley, a program that has had very little success in the Foothill League, is setting its sights on a Foothill League title.

Is that a wild idea?

“Absolutely not,” Moskal says. “It’s not a wild idea at all.”

661-287-5529

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