Do you have to win to win?

Editor’s Note:

Joey Chang is the head coach for the La Jolla High School girls golf team.

By Joey Chang, PGA

As a first year coach for the La Jolla High School Girls Varsity Golf Team, I try to remind myself that learning is an everyday experience. As of Oct. 3 the La Jolla golfers showed their motivation and resilience to remain undefeated in the Western League. Later that same day, the league leader was decided. This would be the first of two matches between Our Lady of Peace and La Jolla High, who were both undefeated. This was one match we had been looking forward to for a long time.

The setting seemed ideal. As I exited the freeway on this nice, sunny day, I heard The Black Eyed Peas’ song, “I Gotta Feelin” on the radio; and then, for no particular reason, the main verse began to reverberate through my mind:

I gotta feeling that tonight’s gonna be a good night ... .

I entered the golf course and immediately saw the ladies practicing, but, at the same time, I kept thinking about the lyrics to the song. It described this day perfectly. I really felt we had a good chance of beating the defending league champs.

As the first player stepped to the tee, I noticed that the air was cool. If you closed your eyes you could feel the wind engulf your entire face, as it passed right through you. It was a nice feeling, and maybe the most calming feeling, especially as I observed how relaxed the ladies were at a match of so much importance.

The next couple of hours were left to fate. As the coach, I could do no more.

I chose to work with another student on the course as the competing teams played in the groups before us. As we approached the seventh fairway I could see the first match was about to end. I wanted to see the reaction of the girls as they came off of the ninth green. I almost felt the need to find the right approach in case the loss was inevitable. I knew the ladies worked hard and I knew they really wanted this win. Expectations for a teenager can sometimes be crushing. As we get older, we learn that life has many challenges that have to be tackled. For a teenager, the weight of these challenges almost always feel 10 times heavier. We tend to forget that teenagers also have pressures of life, whether its AP classes, college deadlines, first-year class struggles, and, of course, general overall performance. Some teenagers will be too hard on themselves. I wanted the girls to be proud; I felt each had earned the right to be proud of themselves, individually and collectively.

As I watched each group come in, it was hard to tell if they had played well or not. Sometimes you see the droopy eyes with the pitiful clown frown. Instead, I saw smiling faces, good camaraderie, and playful interaction with each other and with the other team. After I saw the first group scores, I knew we were behind. The next group was a virtual tie. It was down to the wire. But you would have never known it just by watching these astounding lady golfers. They were excited. As the final group came in and the total score was tallied, the final score was OLP 200 La Jolla 205. We had lost! Or had we?

Then, an amazing thing occurred. The team didn’t look disappointed; in fact, they were elated. I was prepared to give them the “You did your best” speech when I realized it wasn’t necessary. Happiness and joy. It was as if we won. This reaction was highly unexpected, but why? As I looked at the character and the strength of the team, it became clear. They had worked hard, not only to improve themselves, but also to improve as a team. The difference was 5 strokes. The match was neck and neck. We had lost but was it over?

As a team, they shot their lowest score of the year. Juliette Garay, senior co-captain, was the medalist shooting an impressive round of 36 and beating out the current scoring leader for the city. The other players showed remarkable improvements, including Jordan Atnip, senior co-captain shooting her best round this year. Just as impressive were solid performances from Sophomores Marisa Liang, Manci Rasmussen, newcomer Anna Law, and Freshman Daniella Anastasi, as they have shown improvement all year long.

The future of the team is even brighter with Junior Maura Kanter, Sophomore Sophia Delgado, and Freshmen Kayla Goldsmid and Kexin Feng, all waiting in the wings to make their team contributions. There were so many positives in this match that, as a coach, I feel you can really never underestimate the mind and heart of the student athlete.

We finished the match as we always do, gathering together for a few thoughts. The only question that I felt appropriate was to ask the girls, “Do you have to win to win?”

Enough had been said. They got the point and knew they had won and that I was proud of their performance and the way they had handled themselves.

Was this the match of the century? Does it end? Not really, but I do know from here on out this team that has worked hard together will continue to be very successful.

It has still been an exceptional year. Our second match with OLP was on Oct.13.

Unfortunately, it was a disappointing result. La Jolla lost by four strokes, 214 to 218. Throughout the year, one of the goals was to win against the defending champions. The team has shown a high level of determination in reaching this goal. Although we did not reach this goal, the team continues to shows its strength, still fighting to make CIF. La Jolla has hopes to qualify as an at-large selection. We will not slow down until the season ends. On behalf of the team, I would like to congratulate Aaron Gonzalez and the OLP team for providing an exciting challenge this year. If La Jolla should make it to CIF, we look forward to a continued challenge.