Riding the coattails of an individual championship performance by junior Libby Fleming, Torrey Pines prevailed in one of the closest competitions in recent history to capture the CIF Division I Girls Golf Championship Wednesday at San Diego’s Admiral Baker Golf Course.
As Fleming led the way with back-to-back two-under par 70s on the 5,519-yd. South Course, the Falcons posted an overall total of 771 (51 over par) for the 36-hole tournament which started with 18 holes Monday’s. That score left them six strokes ahead of runner-up Scripps Ranch which held a one-stroke advantage over Torrey Pines after the first day. Three-time defending champion and top-seeded Rancho Bernardo (787) was third followed by a pair of North Coast representatives, Canyon Crest (788) and Carlsbad (799).
“It was shocking and amazing and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t bawling a little bit after they announced that we had won,” admitted Drake, who has eight previous CIF titles at Torrey Pines. “It was shocking because we knew there were some incredible programs out there—RB beat us twice this year, Scripps Ranch was right there with us in the rankings and Canyon Crest and Carlsbad are rivals in the Avocado West, the toughest league in San Diego.
“I mean, we’re also a good program and I know we always have a chance but this was the hardest fought of the 25 CIF Championships I’ve been part of on the boys’ and girls’ sides. It took an entire team effort and everyone contributed.”
Before the Falcons found out that they had bagged the team crown, Fleming had already claimed medalist honors, surviving a talented field by overcoming what for her was an unfamiliar experience.
“It’s a relief,” said Fleming after birdieing the final hole to finish two strokes up on second place junior Vanessa Ho of Rancho Bernardo. “Honestly, I’ve never been in that position before and I can’t believe I handled it so well—Vanessa just wasn’t missing anything.
“I’ve never been in the lead going into the final round or down the stretch so I’m not used to it at all. But my mental game is strong and I believed in myself a lot.
“Overall, my wedges were so solid, my driver was getting more solid towards the end of the round and I knew I was putting well.” Fleming and Ho, who was Fleming’s freshman teammate at Torrey before transferring, were tied atop the leaderboard after day one and finished as the the only two players to break par.
Paired with Ho for the final round, Fleming carded six birdies (four on the front nine) and made the turn with a three-stroke edge. She stumbled briefly with bogeys at 11 and 12 but regained her balance and put the pressure on Ho with a birdie on the 344-yd. par 4 15th, hitting a brilliant approach shot to within inches from 134 yds.
“The wind was kind of in our faces and there was a bunker to deal with,” said Fleming. “I played a nine iron, hit it well and stuck it—that really boosted my confidence.” Ho pulled back to within a stroke by birdieing 17 where Fleming missed a short putt for a birdie of her own. The winner returned the favor on 18, giving a barely visible fist pump to celebrate the moment.
“My routine, I stuck to my routine and stayed calm,” said Fleming when asked what separated her from the rest of the field. “I wasn’t sure where the score stood between me and Vanessa but after I had those two bogeys, I knew it was getting closer.
“After those, I didn’t rethink anything, didn’t go back to past holes. I stayed in the present better today than I ever have before.”
As one would expect, Drake is a big fan of the new section champion. “Libby really wanted this for the team and herself,” he said. “She set her mind to bringing us to this championship and kind of put us on her back a little bit.
“She has been a cornerstone of our program from the moment she stepped on campus. I’m so happy and so proud of her.”
Fleming had ample support. Senior transfer Olivia Yun, whose return from a wrist injury sparked a late season Falcon surge, posted a one-under par 71 on Monday and closed out with a 148 total, putting her in 10th place individually. Senior Summer Yang rebounded from a tough round Monday to record a two-over par 74 Wednesday, one of the day’s top 10 numbers. Freshmen Muzi Wei and Emily Zhou completed the Torrey Pines scoring quintet and sophomore Kelsie Park rounded out the lineup. It’s a group Drake will not soon forget.
“This team was unique—they liked to have fun but never lost sight of the prize,” said Drake. “We were between the two and five seed in the rankings all year but going in it seemed like it was RB’s or Scripps Ranch’s to win.
“Throughout the season, our girls stayed focused on closing the gap between ourselves and the top-rated teams and kept believing we would eventually event it up and beat them. We did that today.”