Napa Valley College Women's Golf Preview 2019
By MARTY JAMES
It was a banner season for the Napa Valley College women's golf team in 2018.
Led by head coach Bob Freschi, the Storm took third place in the very tough Big 8 Conference and finished third in the conference's final tournament of the fall season. Jordan Lowe led the Storm, shooting 90 and was followed by Desiree Ramos (92), Baylee Vyenielo (95) and Ruthie Bowen (104) in the event that was played at Spring Creek Country Club in Ripon.
Lowe and Ramos were each named to the All-Big 8 Conference team.
Napa Valley continued its season by advancing to the California Community College Athletic Association Northern California Regional Championships, a 36-hole two-day event, at Wildhorse Golf Club in Davis. The Storm placed fifth and two players, Ramos (81-80 – 161) and Lowe (82-89 – 171) each qualified for state as individuals.
Lowe was 33rd and Ramos finished 40th for Napa Valley at the CCCAA State Championships, held at Morro Bay Golf Course, a par-72, 5,378-yard layout, in San Luis Obispo County.
Lowe shot 86-84 – 170 and Ramos shot 88-86 – 174. The team title was won by College of the Canyons of Santa Clarita.
"Last year, we had Jordan and Desiree as a one-two punch. They posted good scores, as the first two coming into the clubhouse," Freschi said before a team practice at Napa Golf Course at Kennedy Park, the Storm's home course, last week.
It was the first time since 2013 that Napa Valley had qualified for NorCals. The Storm dedicated its season last year to former head coach Jim Wiechers, who passed away on Oct. 15, 2018. Wiechers was 74.
Wiechers received NCAA All-America honors at Santa Clara University and played on the PGA Tour for 13 years. He is a member of the Santa Clara Athletic Hall of Fame. He was the men's and women's golf coach at NVC for several years.
Lowe, Bowen and Vyenielo, the team's three sophomores, lead Napa Valley into the 2019 season. There are eight teams in the conference: NVC, Butte of Oroville, Modesto, Sacramento City, Sierra of Rocklin, San Joaquin Delta of Stockton, Taft and Reedley.
Fresno City and American River of Sacramento dropped their programs.
Also on the NVC team are Tracy Geraghty and Janett Saldivar, both freshmen.
There are five players on the team, with four scores that count in a tournament.
"I think that if we keep practicing and giving our 100 percent, then we're going to have a good season," said Bowen, a 2018 graduate of Buckingham Charter of Vacaville. "At first, it's going to be a little tough just getting used to the 18-hole endurance. But as the season proceeds on, I think it will get better and hopefully we will have a successful season.
"We have definitely been utilizing (driving) range time as well as just putting and chipping. And I know, you just have to keep practicing, no matter what."
Lowe, 2018 graduate of Vacaville High, is looking to do all she can to return to the state tournament.
"I think I can do that again," said Lowe. "Last year set the standard for this year. I didn't think I could reach all the goals that I reached last year. So now I have higher standards for this year.
"I want to consistently shoot in the low 80s. I'm getting better at chipping and putting, and that's where I lost a lot of strokes last year."
The team's top three players are Lowe, Bowen and Vyenielo.
"The three sophomores are going to carry us. We'll rely on the top three and then we need to have a decent score from one of the freshmen," said Freschi. "The three returning players have been through it. I demand a lot. I'm hoping that they all have gotten better, that they have shaved strokes down and that they have worked hard.
"We focus on their weaknesses. Their strengths will always be there. So now it's a matter of scoring and being able to put the ball in the hole, doing that in match competition, on each and every hole.
"We are at the beginning of the season, so we will gradually improve. That's what our program does – we improve as the season goes on. And again, focus on our weaknesses and understanding course management. It's their finesse game that we need to focus on.
"Another reason why the sophomores will have better seasons is because they have been to these courses before. They know how to play them. So that shaves strokes right there, just being smart about what to strive for and where to hit the ball. And they mature.
"They have a good time playing golf and they enjoy the process. I think Jordan can get down in the low 80s and then break 80 every now and then. Baylee and Ruthie need to be close and shoot in the 80s. I think we'll be right there in the mix."
The mental side of golf is something that Freschi works with the players on, focusing on the positives and moving on from the negatives.
"You've got to have a short-term memory and move on to the next shot," said Freschi. "The sophomores understand this program and what it takes to compete at this level. The freshmen will be along for the ride the first few matches, until they figure things out and see what it's all about.
"We always have a good time. It's fun. I want to have that same demeanor on the course during competition, as we do in practice. One bad shot is not going to ruin you."
NVC will play matches at Bartley Cavanaugh Golf Course in Sacramento, Napa Golf Course, Whitney Oaks Golf Club in Rocklin, Kings River Golf & Country Club in Kingsburg, Bing Maloney Golf Course in Sacramento, Turlock Golf & Country Club, Elkhorn Golf Club in Stockton, Butte Creek Country Club in Chico, Chardonnay Golf Club in American Canyon, The Reserve at Spanos Park in Stockton, and Spring Creek.
"I think this year, we're all just trying to grow as individuals and make our games stronger," said Vyenielo, a 2018 graduate of Analy High of Sebastopol.
New to the team is Saldivar, a 2019 graduate of Vintage High. Saldivar played golf at Vintage.
"It's going to be a good year. Everyone has been working super hard," Saldivar said.
Also new to the team Geraghty, a 1987 graduate of Cherry Creek High in Colorado.
* Marty James is a freelance writer who makes his home in Napa. He retired on June 4, after spending 40 years as a sports writer, sports editor and executive sports editor for the Napa Valley Register, a daily newspaper in Napa County. He is a 1979 graduate of Sacramento State and a member of the California Golf Writers & Broadcasters Association, Associated Press Sports Editors, and California Prep Sports Media Association. He was inducted into the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame in 2016 and the Vintage High School Athletic Hall of Fame on Sept. 7, 2019.