The women’s golf team traveled to Palm Desert to take part in the Wyoming Cowgirl Desert Intercollegiate from Sept. 29 through the 30. The Highlanders led by senior Jakeishya Le, who won the individual tournament, played well enough as a team to earn second place. This is the second time in Le’s career that she has won a tournament’s individual honors.
Head Coach Mary Ritchie explained Le’s impact on the team saying, “She’s been a team leader both on the golf course and in the classroom. She was a Big West Scholar Athlete last year and she sets her goals high and she works really hard.”
Le recognizes as a senior that this is her final season to make an impact for this Riverside program and Ritchie has noticed her senior taking the “last chance for romance,” phrase that her coach uses often to heart, but with a bit of a twist. Ritchie shared that Le actually uses the phrase “balls to the wall,” to express her desire to leave it all on the course in her final campaign with the Highlanders.
The second place finish came on the heels of Riverside’s 12th place finish in the Golfweek Conference Challenge in Vail, Colo. Ritchie explained that the main difference between her team’s performance at the Cowgirl Desert Intercollegiate and the Golfweek Conference Challenge was the team’s ability to putt. Ritchie described the team as “very cautious” on the greens in Vail, but since that performance, putting has become the Highlanders big emphasis for the year and improvement is already being shown, as showcased by their recent finish.
Sophomore Ping Huang also had a very impressive tournament, finishing tied for 12th place with a score of 228. The duo of Le and Huang has caught their coach’s eye and praise as the top two players.
The team Ritchie currently has is the smallest team she’s coached since joining UCR in 2014, but she believes it’s her best yet. “The beauty of the team is the depth that we have,” Ritchie said. “Despite having the smaller squad in my five years here I feel like anybody can shoot par or under on this team.”
Riverside’s talent was on full display during the tournament as every golfer on the team was less than 10 strokes behind the teammate who finished ahead of them. Junior Hailey White finished third for UCR and only eights shots shy of Huang, who has garnered high praise from her head coach.
Ritchie is very excited for how special this team can be in the very near future. “I feel like we are headed in a really great direction,” Ritchie said. “I feel very optimistic about our team’s performance this year and we opened up with a pretty decent first round at Vail in that tough competition.”
Despite her team’s early success, Ritchie emphasized that these results were just the beginning saying, “We’re just getting warmed up right now.”
The Highlanders kick off their next tournament, the Aggie Invitational, in Las Cruces, N.M. on Oct. 8.