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Going the extra yard

An improving Del Norte girls golf team entering tournament at Del Norte G.C. today

Through the first month of its season, the Del Norte girls golf team can accurately claim that it has gotten better every week.

The Warriors have improved in combined scoring in each of the past three tournaments, averaging 605 strokes among their top three scorers. Five of Del Norte’s nine golfers produced their best scores of the season in the past two weeks.

The Warriors’ season total of 2,433 strokes in four Humboldt-Del Norte tournaments is good for third place in the Big 5 League, 11 strokes better than fourth-place Eureka but 172 strokes behind second-place Arcata. (McKinleyville is the class of the league to date, shooting a combined 2,155.)

“We have certain people that drive good, putt really good,” Del Norte freshman Siera Fitzhugh said. “I guess if we played as a scramble, we’d be 
really good.”

After four weeks on the road, the Warriors host a tournament of their own today, at noon at Del Norte Golf Course. 

Golfers will play in foursomes on Del Norte Golf Course’s ladies’ tees, measuring out to 5,454 yards (par-71). They are grouped by ability and past performance, which occasionally pairs up teammates.

“I’ve usually shot better with teammates in my groups,” sophomore Bailee Jones said. “We talk to each other, help each other out.”

According to volunteer assistant coach James Haban, the team aspires to a second-place finish in today’s tournament.

“I think the ladies have a good chance,” he said. “It would be our best finish of the year and a prelude to what is coming next year.”

Indeed, assuming the current cast sticks with it, Del Norte girls golf has much to look forward to.

Amber Preston, the Warriors’ second-leading scorer this season and the 11th-best Big 5 League golfer, is the lone senior on the roster. Preston remains relatively new to golf — she’s in her second year on the varsity squad — but has come to enjoy the sport in part because of “how calm it is.”

“I’m actually a really competitive person,” she admitted. “It doesn’t bring that side out.”

Fitzhugh, Del Norte’s lone freshman, is the team’s top scorer on the year, with a tournament best of 111 on Sept. 17 at the par-72 Redwood Empire Golf & Country Club in Eureka.

Her father, Josh, is a Del Norte High graduate and passionate golfer who has been working with Siera on her game “since I could walk,” she said.

“Siera has that athleticism which is rare (in girls golf),” Haban said. “Her potential is through the roof. The only thing she has against her right now is inexperience with the game, but she is getting more and more (experience).”

Jones and junior Brooke Trujillo — currently 12th and 14th in the Big 5 League overall standings — are Del Norte’s other White Star contenders at present. (The awards are given to the top seven golfers at the end of the season.) Juniors Alicia Fender and Taylor Shanley and sophomores Haylee Hardy, Hailie Thompson and Morgan Gibson round out the roster.

“All the girls get along well and there is a strong team feel during practices and competitions,” Haban said. “Each member has a great desire to improve and do better, which are the underpinnings to a successful team.”

Haban has assumed many of the duties of Del Norte head coach Cris Rice, who has missed practices and tournaments due to a family illness.

“Not having Cris around has been tough because he ... keeps these girls in line,” Haban said. “I have a different way. I am more of a negotiator.”

At present, the Warriors are focused on improving their standing in any way, be it individually — no Del Norte player has carded a round under 110 this season; many have that as a stated goal — or as a team by finishing second in a tournament.

“As the season goes on, I think we’ll progress way more,” Preston said. “It doesn’t mean we can’t do it, it just means we need to work our butts off.”

In continuing that work, the Warriors receive the benefit of one round on the home course.

Reach Robert Husseman at 
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