Torrey Pines girls play unfamiliar role in chase for CIF Golf Championship
After years of being the hunted, Coach Chris Drake’s Torrey Pines girls’ golf team has come into the 2022 season in a new role. Following a second place finish to Carlsbad at last fall’s San Diego CIF Championships and missing out on a trip to the CIF State Championships, the Falcons are now the hunters. The target is reclaiming the section crown with still formidable Carlsbad, among others, standing in their way.
Sporting wins in 10 of its first 11 dual matches, Torrey occupied the No. 1 slot in the first CIF rankings but Drake, who has taken the Falcons to 10 CIF titles, knows that the road ahead will not be without challenges, pegging Carlsbad, Bishop’s, Mater Dei Catholic and Rancho Bernardo among the most likely contenders.
“There’s probably more talent at the top than ever before in San Diego,” he said. “It may be the most competitive it’s ever been but we should be in the mix.
“When it comes to the CIF Championships, though, rankings don’t matter. It’s what you can do on those two days, on those 36 holes. We believe we’re competitive enough to play with anyone this year.”
Standout senior Muzi Wei, who played on Torrey CIF winners as a freshman and sophomore, figures to provide the veteran leadership in the ’22 title quest. Sophomore Sehee Sim, an individual qualifier for the CIF State Regionals as a freshman, and junior Annie Zhang should also play key roles.
Senior Emily Zhou, juniors Kayley Kang and Chloe Dep and sophomore Sydney Sirinian are expected to be in the battle for spaces on the post-season roster. Based on early season results Sim (#3), Wei (#6) and Zhang (#10) all own spots in the CIF’s individual Top 10.
“We come back with a lot of experience—an older, more mature team,” says Drake, alluding to the pressure of post-season play. “They’ve all been at that stage before.”
Wei, for one, remembers last year’s conclusion all to well. “Our whole team was crying and I felt very disappointed with myself,” said Wei. “When you lose, it’s easy to re-trace and think about where you could have done better but, as a team, we just didn’t play well enough. It didn’t feel good.
“I think that’s added emphasis to our expectation and this year a win would feel that much more significant. If we can continue to build on our performance so far, we’ll have a very good shot.”
The 2022 CIF Girls Golf Championships are set for Monday, Oct. 31 and Thursday, Nov. 3 with 18 holes each day being contested at a course to be confirmed in the next two weeks.
Q & A WITH MUZI WEI
A member of two San Diego CIF Championship teams, senior Muzi Wei has been a member of the top group on the Torrey Pines girls’ golf team for four consecutive seasons. She was born in China, moved to San Diego as a youngster and is now one of the elite prep golfers in the county. A solid all-around player, whose trademark is her length off the tee, the 5-9 Wei has also established herself as a leader for Coach Chris Drake’s squad, on and off the course.
“Really, from the beginning, Muzi has had the personality of a leader,” said Drake. “She is someone who would listen, bought into the culture and reinforces the ideas that our program stood for—the legacy of the girls who came before, representing the school and what a Torrey Pines golfer says and does.
“Muzi has always modeled it for other girls, all while continuing to incrementally improve every aspect of her game. She has never plateaued.”
With Torrey Pines reaching the midpoint of a demanding regular season schedule, the 18-year-old Wei took time to share her thoughts about a variety of topics, including how she ended up in San Diego, her personality and the first time she got behind the wheel of a golf cart.
Q—How did you get started playing golf and what made it your sport of choice?
WEI—In China, we lived in a major city, Zhenzhou (current population over 10 million), a very urban setting. I had a friend playing golf and thought it looked like a cool sport, one that would put me into a very different environment, somewhere rural vs. just the city. The idea of being surrounded by grass, long fields of nature and having a friend there was very appealing. I tried it and I liked it.
I think I have to give credit to my mom for keeping me moving forward with golf. I liked it at first but then got to feeling like there was a lot of waiting around and that golf was boring. Kids can get to a point where they don’t like something and rebel against it and when I passed that point, I would even pretend to be sick so I didn’t have to play.
But my mom persisted and said I would be glad I stuck with it in the end. At the time, I had also doing ballet for quite a while and liked that even less. I made a deal with my mom that I would stick with golf if I could quit ballet. It’s turned out to be a good choice.
Q—What was the impetus for your move to the United States?
WEI—My mother and I came when I was in the fifth grade and the move was pretty much driven by golf and education and the opportunities both could offer here. On the golf side, there were only three courses in my entire province in China and there are more than that just in Del Mar. My brother, Peter (25), was already here. He didn’t know anyone and had come by himself to attend a boarding school in New York, so I had it much easier with my mother along.
I did not really want to move to America. My mother talked about the opportunities but, as a fifth grader, I couldn’t wrap my mind around what it would be like. All I could think about is that it was a time to abandon everything I knew. Once again though, looking back, I’m very happy with that decision.
Q—What do you like about living in San Diego?
WEI—I like a lot of aspects. Obviously, I really like the climate and being able to go to the beach so easily is fun—very different from what I was used to. In China, we would have had to get on an airplane to see somewhere more remote where there would be a beach.
There is a huge difference in school. Torrey Pines is very good academically but in China I probably spent more time with my classmates and teachers than my family. That’s a pretty common thing. Also, sports really wasn’t much of a thing. At Torrey Pines, almost all the students are student-athletes. In China that would be abnormal.
My entire extended family is still in China and that’s what I’ve missed most since leaving.
Q—What’s been the highlight of your golf career at Torrey Pines?
WEI—I don’t think I could name a specific achievement, but there are distinct moments I remember very well. One would be making the CIF State Regionals as a freshman. I had never played on a team before and taking the two-hour van ride to the site and staying in a hotel was exciting. Being able to share that with my teammates was memorable.
Q—How would you say playing at Torrey Pines has been beneficial to your golf game?
WEI—I think, for one, being on a team like this has taught me a different aspect of the game. Knowing your score is for your team and not just yourself is special. Some people would consider that pressure but I look at it as a positive motivator.
Q—How would you describe your personality on the course?
WEI—On the course, players tend to be pretty serious but I like to laugh around a little bit. I think I’m easy-going, fun (I hope) and maybe a little silly. I’ve also learned to be compassionate. After a round, especially if I hadn’t played well, I used to be very emotional but now I can sympathize with someone else having a bad round. That plays out and is useful not only in golf but life.
I’ve also found being able to play with a teammate makes it more relaxed and laid back. I have played frequently with Sehee (Sim) and we’re pretty good friends. The other day, we had actually had a very long “argument” about whether the palm trees on the course looked beheaded—and another regarding whether a 360-degree lip out is really a full 360 degrees We were mapping out the mathematical equation on a scorecard.
Q—What were the easiest and toughest skills for you to master on the golf course?
WEI—I think the first thing I got good at was putting. As a five-year-old, it’s easier to spend a lot of time putting than swinging a club. I didn’t have a lot of weight so it was hard for me to gather the necessary speed to get the power to strike the ball. Putting is precision and being able to practice it more brought proficiency.
My strength right now, though, is distance. I’ve gotten into working out and have the physical strength to average around 240 yds. on my drives. The toughest thing now is developing consistency in my short game. That depends a great deal on feel and can very much be affected by your mental game. You miss a makeable putt and it can hurt your confidence in other areas.
I could say driving a cart was tough to master. In China, you have caddies who go around with you but they’re not quite as strict as they are here with the carts. When I was seven, I convinced my caddy to let me drive and I drove the cart into a lake (Wei claims it was not her fault but a “technical difficulty” with the vehicle).
Q—What’s something the average person would be surprised to find out about the sport of golf?
WEI—Just how many aspects we have to consider, even in high school golf, that make it much more than just chasing a ball around and hitting it with a stick.
When you’re playing at a high level, you’re taking into consideration factors like the humidity, wind, the grain, length of the grass, the altitude and the hardness of the ground, among others.
Q—What’s your favorite local course?
WEI—Not to be cliché, but Torrey Pines. No. 1, it’s beautiful and there are so many great views. I just really like the feel you get when you’re playing there. It seems like there’s always a nice breeze to go with the course and the views.
Q—Who is your favorite golfer and what three golfers would join you in a dream foursome?
WEI—I would say Michelle Wie is my favorite. I like her skill set and resonate with her as a player. It’s funny because her last name is similar to mine.
As far as a foursome, Tiger Woods definitely, let’s not kid ourselves. Also Michelle Wie and Drake.
Q—Besides your golf exploits, you carry a 4.3 weighted GPA. What are your future plans after graduating from Torrey Pines?
WEI—I definitely want to see where golf will take me. I’ve committed to play college golf at Bowdoin College (in Maine). I’m not sure what happens after that, but I feel like golf is one of those sports you can always come back to.
Academically, I’m interested in international business. Coming from a multi-cultural background, it’s something I want to explore. Bowdoin is a liberal arts college and I definitely want to get exposed to as much as I can before I hone in on one thing.
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