ATASCADERO — For the first time in the history of the program, the Atascadero High School girls golf team will be heading to the CIF playoffs. The playoff berth comes on the heels of another Atascadero girls first when they defeated San Luis Obispo at their home course of Chalk Mountain on Oct. 1 by a score of 244-249.
“It is at least the first time in the last ten years or so, SLO is always among the top of our league,” head golf coach Kara Ferrel said. “Arroyo Grande and San Luis, and for the first time two weeks ago we beat them at our home course. It was really exciting for me and I think it was the launching point for these girls.”
The girls team is led by sophomore Katie Burson, who is always in medal contention in any match she plays, and a tight-knit group of four seniors who all began playing their freshman year as a way to hang out together, with absolutely no golf experience, and have grown into a force that’s heading into the playoffs.
“I think it is pretty cool because, I mean, we get to go as a team and being able to have this experience with all my friends is pretty cool,” Burson said. “It is fun, I love golf so being able to go out and have a new experience with my friends is pretty cool.”
The senior nucleus is made up of Abbey Hurst, who played as the Hounds No. 2 player this season, Cairo Murphy Atascadero’s No. 3, Alyssa Melendez the No. 4 player, and Sierra Powell who held down the Hounds No. 6 spot until she injured her ankle a few weeks ago.
“I would have honestly laughed so hard,” Powell replied when asked what she would have said if someone would have told her the Hounds would make the playoffs her senior year. “We took months to learn how to use a club and now we are so picky if our aim isn’t right, but, honestly, in the beginning, aim wasn’t even a factor, just hitting the ball was the biggest thing.”
Junior Julia Smith is also a key part of the Hounds success this year and normally plays in Atascadero’s No. 5 spot. The Hounds also have Junior Madison Hosford who started the season on junior varsity, but was brought up after Powell sustained the injury and has been playing in the No. 6 spot ever since.
“It was a little bit stressful,” Hosford said of coming up in the middle of a team trying to push for the playoffs. “Because JV is a little more relaxed, we talk and hang out, but when I got to varsity no one was talking during the matches I started wondering what I was doing up here and if I should be up here, but then as I kept playing it got better and I am comfortable now and I am really happy to be apart of the varsity team.”
Atascadero started the season off well but everything changed when the girls were able to beat San Luis Obispo and started to realize they had a real shot at the No. 2 spot in the Mountain League and a shot at the playoffs.
“In the actual league finals tournament itself, we got second place,” Ferrell said. “But it was calculated by overall win/loss record and overall points for each tournament for the final, final standings and overall we got third place in league.”
Atascadero finished the season 9-3 overall and 3-1 in league with all three of their losses coming at the hands of Arroyo Grande. While Atascadero beat SLO straight up in their dual match, the Tigers beat Atascadero in a mini this season and were not present in the last one to play a tie-break of sorts.
“These girls have put in so much work over the last two week and I am telling you since that San Luis game they have totally elevated their game,” Ferrell said. “I have to give the credit to these girls. Every single girl on our varsity team went and played Dairy at least once or twice from last week to this weekend to prepare for the match.”
This season it was San Luis Obispo’s turn to host the league match, last year it was hosted at Chalk Mountain Golf Course in Atascadero, which meant that it was held at the newly converted 9-hole course, Dairy Creek, and that the girls would have to play the same nine twice.
The hard work and extra practice paid off as the Hounds finished second overall in the league final tournament shooting a 495, just one single stroke better than the SLO Tigers. On a day when the Hounds needed their absolute best, Hurst delivered. The senior shot an 88 on Monday, the lowest score of her life, and per Central Section rules because the team as a whole qualified for CIF, each one of the six players on the Hounds team has also qualified individually.
“It feels great, it feels good to succeed, like personally, but to have all my teammates do so well beside me made it even better,” Hurst said.“Adding it all up and seeing your lowest number is great. I was pretty excited because it was the perfect day to record my best score.”
Like the rest of the seniors on the team, Hurst began golf as a way to hang out with her friends and just hoped to make contact with the ball but finished her career with the sixth-lowest score at the league finals tournament.
Burson led the Hounds in scoring by shooting an 85, Murphy finished third with a score of 101, Smith finished fourth with a 109, Melendez followed closely behind her with a 112 and Hosford shot a 123 that Atascadero was able to throw out.
“It is really cool to me to be apart of the team that is going, especially because it is history kind of being made like it is the first time,” Murphy said. “I am really excited because I just love all of them so much and it’s been such a fun year both on and off the course because we are all friends off the course and then when we play together we have a really great team dynamic.”
Murphy also shot her lowest score this season just a few weeks ago but quickly experienced a nightmare all golfers are familiar with.
“I broke 50, I shot a 49 at this course for the first time ever,” Murphy said. “I usually shoot 52, or 53, well, I started in the high 50’s and have been working my way down. So I broke 50 for the first time here at Chalk and then six games in a row after I shot 50 exactly. I just wanted to break it because, to me, under 50 is a really good score and I really wanted to break it and finally at Rancho, I shot a 48 and I was so happy.”
The girls currently play in Division 2 of the Central Section and will play in Lemoore on Monday as they look to make even more history