Jesuit girls golf goes back-to-back, wins 6A title
The night before staring down the second day of the Class 6A girls golf state championship, Jesuit was unconfined by pressure.
The burden of having to overcome a stacked Westview squad that tore up Quail Valley Country Club on the first day of the tournament, roaring to a 15-stroke lead, was absent from the Crusaders' psyche.
Rather, Jesuit's grand second day state comeback began with naps and face masks, continued with Dairy Queen and pressed on with a dip in the Staybridge Suites swimming pool the evening before taking the first tee on May 13.
The senior-led crew with Haley Hummelt, Tabetha Kang, Grace Tennant and Clara Ganz kept things light, knowing what needed to be done. Worrying about the score wouldn't do the Crusaders any good. Enjoying the ride and controlling the controllables, not the scoreboard, would.
Going into the last round on May 14 at QVCC Jesuit wasn't unnerved by the stakes. As a result, the Crusaders can call themselves champions once again. Led by Hummelt's torching of the rural course and the always steady play of Kang and junior Mary Scott Wolfe, Jesuit overcame Westview by shooting a 301 on day two to finish its two days with a combined 616. The Wildcats shot a 324 on day two to bring its total to 624, not enough to overthrow Jesuit who won its second straight 6A title.
"It doesn't feel real," Kang said with a smile. "We knew it wasn't over coming into today and that we could pull through and give Westview a run. Being together we knew we were always there for each other and last night solidified that. We wanted this really bad."
Hummelt was Jesuit's highest finisher, taking fifth overall. Wolfe tied for seventh, Kang took 11th while Tennant placed 23rd and Ganz tied for 25th.
"We left everything on the course," Hummelt said. "We showed once again that we're the strongest team in the field. That's what it makes it the best. We had to work so hard each year."
Being that most of the Crusaders live close enough to Banks, each player could've gone home and slept in their own beds after the first day of play. But this group, head coach Katy Williams said, is quite likely the closest she's ever had during her illustrious tenure. And so, Jesuit elected to hunker down together at Staybridge Suites, pampering themselves and enjoying one another's company for the last time as a team.
"We decided we're a team, we're going to stick it out together," Hummelt said. "We were going to be together until the end."
Westview could not have asked for a better first day at state. Led by defending state medalist Alexa Udom and senior star Jessica Ponce, the Wildcats sprinted out to that aforementioned advantage with Udom shooting a minuscule 67. But toward the tail end of the season, Udom began dealing with blood platelets, a condition that weakened her strength and stamina. The junior was back in the hospital over the weekend and wasn't cleared to play until Sunday, just hours before Westview's early tee time on Monday morning. Udom went into protecting her title "with no expectations" as a result of the medical setback but still lit it up on day one.
"I wasn't really focused on golf, I was just happy to be out playing," Udom said.
It speaks to Udom's resoluteness and champion heart that the junior was able to fight through the last few holes as she did, finishing with a second round 79 and a 146 overall to finish as the 6A's runner-up. Udom said her health started to go south at the beginning of the final round and downward spiraled over the back nine. The defending state champ was helped off the 18th green with Ponce providing the support and taken to the clubhouse in a golf cart, completely drained from trying to will her team and herself to a title.
"When it really hit me, with two or three holes left, I knew I had to battle through," Udom said. "I knew if we were going to have a chance that we all had to play for each other."
Ponce finished third, closing out a stellar high school career. Westview freshman Momo Udom, Alexa's younger sister, tied for 10th overall, sophomore Megan Ponce, Jessica's younger sister, tied for 27th and freshman Annette Tongsak tied for 49th.
"They put it all out there, they're the reason why we were sitting on the lead yesterday," Udom said. "They're definitely going to help us in the future. They're going to be a big part of the team. As a team, it sucks to take second, but we were right there. We put ourselves in a good position, but we needed that little extra today."
With a state championship under her belt, next season to look forward to and a world of promise ahead of her including a scholarship to BYU, Udom will have many great days ahead.
"My Dad said I already checked (a state title) this box off already," Udom said with a smile. "I know I need to focus on my health now because I have a long golf career ahead of me."
Williams is a proponent of not watching the scoreboard or focusing on the opponents. In her final day as Jesuit's head coach, Williams reiterated her belief in playing the course. Hummelt said that belief was incredibly helpful throughout the second day. Going in, even, the senior said she didn't even know Jesuit trailed Westview by as much as it did. With her blinders on, Hummelt went on a heater, shooting a 71, the lowest second day total of any of the 6A individuals. Hummelt birdied three of the first five holes. It was Williams and long-time assistant Konrad Reinhardt's final meet at the helm and Hummelt wanted to make sure they went on top.
"Getting up on that tee, I knew I could do it and I knew our team could do it individually," Hummelt said. "Yesterday I kind leaked some oil in the middle of the round and started to do so today. I learned my lesson and knew I had to push through and keep it together for the team and the coaches. I knew they wanted it just as bad as I did."
At Jesuit, there are no poor players, nobody out just to add an extracurricular activity to their college applications. Every Crusader that signs up for golf does so with intentions of playing at the varsity level and possibly beyond. Team-wide competitions for those coveted spots are cutthroat and up for grabs on a weekly basis throughout the season. Resumes and stature don't matter. Roster spots are precious and even the best players have to qualify. It's weekly, healthy, good-natured pitting that helped form the nucleus of the back-to-back champs.
"As a result of the competition we face between our teammates, it pushes us to be stronger," Hummelt said. "It makes us more united as a team because we know our capabilities."
"We needed everyone to come out with the win," Kang said. "We were a team that was very competitive with another, but also very close."
Mountainside took fifth overall as a team thanks to freshman Emily Song who took 10th individually and fellow freshman Sofia Fuenmayor who tied for 12th. Sunset junior Franca Polla shot a 73 on the second day and tied for 12th with Fuenmayor. Beaverton senior Michi Murai and fellow Beaver senior Nicole Posner finished 20 and 21st overall.
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