First published in the Sept. 23 print issue of the San Marino Tribune.
Due to its traditional spot on the fall sports menu, the San Marino High School girls’ golf team didn’t make the cut a year ago — the entire season wiped out by the pandemic. Instead, the Titans were invited to play an abbreviated five-match season this past spring, but by then the squad — for one reason or another — was reduced to just five players.
“We won a match!” said head coach Ted Chester, his voice tinged with an enthusiasm that might typically belie the admission of just a single victory. The global shutdown can cause one to accept a victory in any way, shape or form, Chester believes.
The Lady Titans are back in business as the 2021-22 school year dawns, with a squad of nine young ladies competing for spot on the coach’s scorecard. While that number of players is not unusual given today’s circumstances, the makeup of the roster is: three seniors and six freshmen.
“It’s unique,” said Chester, who is in his fifth year at SMHS, coaching both the girls’ and boys’ squads. He came aboard when Titan alum Matt Jiggins decided the next chapter of his life included “high school golf coach” and brought along Chester, a frequent member of his foursome. When Jiggins and his family relocated, Chester stepped into the top spot.
After the uncertainty of the last school year, Chester is happy to see some consistency with the proceedings, which is always a valuable asset in the sport of golf.
As is experience, of which the Lady Titans are richly blessed with the presence of the three seniors: Janette Fu, Glenda Chen and Erica King.
“Janette cares a lot about her teammates and the team as a whole,” said Chester of his captain. “She has a lot of responsibilities but also finds the time to be a very good golfer. Janette is typically our low scorer and does everything so well.’
Classmate Glenda Chen is another four-year veteran.
“One of the things I admire so much about Glenda is that she is a strong mentor,”
Chester said. “Along with being one of our top players, she has done a wonderful job of taking the younger players under her wing. Glenda is a very good teacher and role model. She is always very enthusiastic, whether in victory or defeat, as she is a very enthusiastic young lady.”
Erica King rounds out the senior trio on the roster.
“Erica is also very helpful with our team events and other activities,” Chester said. “Erica was primarily a dancer and started playing golf relatively late, but she has improved greatly. She practices with great tenacity. Erica took on golf and she did it with a passion.”
That abundance of experience is augmented by the half-dozen freshmen who showed up late in the summer. Mina Gonzales is the enthusiastic conversationalist of the bunch, according to Chester.
“Mina is very funny and has a great personality,” said the coach. “Her love of the game of golf is apparent and she is a very good player. Mina has an excellent short game and is a natural athlete.”
Audrey Ly shares that enthusiasm and potential.
“Audrey has a near-perfect golf swing and has a great deal of potential,” said Chester, who, being a lifelong player, knows one when he sees one. “She is really getting going with her game and I can see her being a very, very good player. That swing…”
Camille Tai skews more to the quiet side, but that relative silence shouldn’t be mistaken for indifference.
“Camille is tenaciously competitive,” Chester exclaimed. “You can see there is a competitive fire burning there. She has a nice swing and solid all-around game and will certainly contribute to the team.”
Makayla Hernandez is “fun-loving,” in Chester’s estimation, a trait that can be a positive attribute for golfers.
“If she makes a mistake, she just moves on from it, right now,” Chester chuckled. “She has an extremely positive attitude and that will serve her well, both in golf and in life.”
Ellie Vitan rounds out the freshman contingent on San Marino’s roster.
“Ellie is a dedicated learner of the game,” Chester said. “When you combine that with her athleticism, I think she will be an excellent player. We are looking for Ellie to be a key member of this team.”
And there are plenty of opportunities to contribute. In high school golf, each team fields six golfers in a nine-hole match. The lowest five scores are added together to determine an aggregate team score, with the lowest score winning. San Marino already carded a Rio Hondo League victory last Thursday, defeating Alhambra at Arcadia’s Santa Anita Golf Course, the Lady Titans’ home course. Chester believes that Temple City — the defending league champ — and South Pasadena will offer the stiffest competition.
A San Marino native who graduated from Flintridge Prep, Chester walked onto the Stanford Cardinal football team (before they were known as the Cardinal) and also played rugby up north. A scratch golfer, Chester remains active in amateur tournaments but has a soft spot in his heart for the coaching gig.
“I love it,” he exclaimed. “These kids are wonderful, both the boys and the girls. They are very positive, mannerly young people. It is very fulfilling to watch these kids progress and it is a joy to help them work on their game.”