GILROY—Thursday’s match between Gilroy and San Benito was less about competition and more about friendship. After the scores were tallied and the medalist announced, girls from both sides exchanged handshakes, hugs and smiles; the results were the furthest thing from their minds.
The two teams practiced together last Friday, Sept. 4, and quickly became friends. And when the Mustangs saw San Benito on their schedule this week, they couldn’t wait to play with them at Gavilan Golf Course.
“It was really fun seeing them again,” said Gilroy captain Alessandra Esposito, who scored a 55. “Usually when (our opponents are) super close, it’s either huge rivals or really close friends. With this group, it’s like we’re really close friends.”
The Balers won the match 268-295 with Maggie Campo earning medalist honors for her 45 score. Isabella Arreola was right on her heels, scoring a 52 for the Balers, followed by Logan Randle with a 53. Carissa Powell shot a 58 for San Benito, while Bailey Carmichael carded a 60.
The day wasn’t without its challenges, however. With temperatures in the 100s, coaches from both teams were constantly monitoring their players and keeping them hydrated as they battled the sun and each other.
“They could’ve come up with any excuse not to be here, but they didn’t. They came out here and they did their best,” Mustangs coach Daniel Valdez said, noting Nicole Dan and Judith Diaz both recorded better scores than in Tuesday’s season opener. “They added adversity and they overcame it, which is awesome.”
San Benito brought a few new faces to get in on the competition, too. Three freshmen made the trip to compete in their first match. The relaxed and friendly competition between the Balers and Mustangs, San Benito coach Carissa Felice said, was the perfect way for her rookies to get their feet wet.
“I could feel their excited anticipation. It was good,” she said.
The match was a learning experience for all the golfers. Dan, who led Gilroy with a 46, played with San Benito’s Campo. Playing with the eventual match medalist had a positive effect on the Mustang as she shaved two strokes off her Tuesday score and had success on normally difficult holes.
“I was just gauging myself against (Campo),” said Dan, whose best performance of the day came on Hole 2. “I surprised myself on that one. I usually don’t do too well, but I pared it, so that was great.”
Gilroy also saw improvement from Diaz, who chopped three strokes off her score from Tuesday. While she was on the squad last year, academic ineligibility kept her sidelined for the season. Diaz’s improvement in just her second match, Valdez said, is a sign of good things to come for her.
The two teams plan on practicing with each other as the season progresses; Dan evened referred to San Juan Oaks Golf Club—the Balers’ home venue—as Gilroy’s sister course.
The opportunity to learn and grow with each other is something both coaches said is important for their squads. Rather than focus on the numbers, both Felice and Valdez said they want to see their players grow as people first, and success in the game will follow.
“The thing is making them comfortable,” Valdez said. “That’s one thing that we’ve been doing this season is kind of relaxing and getting comfortable.”
Felice added: “I just think golf is a really great sport for girls in particular because they can play it for a really long time and they can surprise people that they know golf…It’s individual and team—you kind of get the best of both worlds. I just really want to see their confidence grow.”
Maggie Campo—45 (match medalist)