The women’s golf team has been setting records for the Highlanders over the past several seasons, so it’s only fitting that their 2016 fall slate ended with the team continuing to set new milestones for the program.
In their final tournament of the fall season, sophomore Hannah Facchini set a single-round program record with a score of 66, and both her and sophomore Jakeishya Le set the two-round records by going 7-under-par.
“It was kind of a surreal moment,” Facchini revealed, as she reminisced about her record-setting performance. “I had a goal going into the season of shooting 67 and I ended up beating it by one shooting 66, so to break that was a really big deal and it just felt really easy. It wasn’t a forced kind of thing, it kind of just happened. That whole entire day I didn’t think about making a bogey or anything, nothing negative crossed my mind. I was just on a roll and it was just (seeing) where the ball goes and if it wants to go in, it will go in and it ended up happening. It was really awesome to finally see; I knew I was due for a really good tournament and to have it happen was exciting.”
Her performance fueled Le to try and push her expectations even further. “I was really happy when I came in knowing that my entire team did well. Hearing that Hannah came in with a score of 66, I was so happy for her, but I was happy for the team too. We beat something and did something that had never been done before … so it was really exciting,” Le recalled. “Then going into the second day we did it again, so it made me want to go shoot another good score. It was just really exciting and was just a great tournament to end off on for all of us.”
Despite somewhat of a rocky start, in which the team finished outside of the top five in three of their first four tournaments this fall, they remained confident and were able to achieve some desired results heading into the winter layoff.
“It went pretty well. I think we had more of a rocky start than we wanted but in the end it turned out for the best for each and every one of us and as a team,” Facchini remarked.
I think it’s great that (the team is) still breaking records,” senior Yuri Ahn said. “We had a record-breaking year last year and yet we still accomplished more. Competing in more competitive tournaments and (having a) presence is big for us and I think we have pretty good momentum going into next season.”
Despite bathing in the glow of continued success last season, each individual on the team knew that they couldn’t stop improving. So they improved, and they aren’t afraid to show it.
Some giggles around the room, grins wide and a confident “I think we’re better, definitely,” from Facchini, says it all about this team. It’s not arrogance, but you can feel the confidence that they exude.
Ahn brought it all back into perspective. “I don’t know stats but I know we’re scoring better on-average per person. We’re doing well,” she asserted. “At the last tournament at the Classic Club we did five strokes better, we just didn’t place as well. It’s really telling and shows that everyone is getting better this year.”
“I think if you go through every individual girl they’ll say, ‘Yeah, I am a lot better than I was last year’,” Facchini added.
Not everyone on the team has the memories of a 2015 season that included a Big West Championship. Sophomore Hannah Furuichi transferred from San Diego State to UCR after last season motivated to improve her game.
“My swing coach, he actually lives in Florida. So during the summer I committed a few weeks to improving my swing,” Furuichi shared. “For me what I struggled (with) the most last season at my old school was my short game, especially my putting, so that’s what I worked on a lot. Last season at my old school, my putting average was 31, but this year it’s (just over 29) so that definitely shaved off two strokes off of my average.”
While these improvements that are noticeably translating into results are exciting, the team also admits that they are running on fumes after such a long stretch. They plan to use the layoff to recover.
“I think we need to take some time off just to catch up with school,” Le said.
“We were going three months just constantly. So we’re really tired,” Facchini added.
“Actually, it was not quite two months,” jested Head Coach Mary Ritchie.
Must be the fatigue talking, I figure.
“So some downtime is good, and then we’ll get back in it and be ready to go,” Facchini reiterated, still giggling from the previous exchange.
The team has a major advantage come playoff time come March, as the Highlanders will be hosting the Big West Tournament this year. There was a consensus on the significance of this.
“It’s very important,” they all said in unison.
“I mean, we know that course like the back of our hand, so to be able to get a couple more rounds in and see how deep we can go into that course makes it really exciting for what conference can bring,” Facchini continued.
The Highlanders hope that the advantage that they earned will help the team ascend to even greater heights.
“Obviously one of our biggest goals is to win conference. I think after winning our first conference (title) last year and now it’s our home course and we know how to play that course. This conference win is the main goal, and obviously tournament wins along the way would be awesome,” Ahn said.
With this success comes even loftier goals, and this is no exception for Le, who finished 15th at the NCAA West Regionals after being named Big West Co-Freshman of the Year on the way to an All-Conference First Team berth last season.
“I think not just that, going to regionals too after conference and doing well there, that would be amazing,” Le said. “That tournament in itself is such a learning experience.”
Through all of the glory and success, that’s what it’s all about for the women’s golf team. They never stop learning.