Christopher girls play inspired golf

Sarah Finch has been a key player for the Cougars. Photo by Robert Eliason.

For Samantha Vogel, playing golf has been downright inspiring. The Christopher High senior started hitting balls on the range when she was 5 or 6, but it was simply for fun. However, once Vogel got to high school, she decided to take her game up another level. Vogel’s dad, David, who died in 2010, inspired her to play. 

“My dad got me interested in golf and he is the reason why I continued to play,” said Vogel, who is the captain of a Cougars team that hasn’t lost in division play since the 2016 season. 

Christopher entered the week undefeated in the Pacific Coast League’s Mission Division at 4-0. Last season, the Cougars ran the table in the Monterey Bay League’s Pacific Division. With no legitimate standout, Christopher is literally a team in the truest sense. The five girls on the squad practice and support each other constantly, a big reason why they’ve found success on the links. 

“I’ve never been a part of anything like this,” Vogel said. “Before I got into this, I thought it was kind of new and weird. I was there strictly to play golf, but over time I grew in connecting with people and creating friendships to the point where it’s like having another mini-family.”

In an email to the Dispatch, coach Jason Navarro said the team reminds him of the 2013 championship squad that featured no super star but several solid players. This year’s team has been able to “focus and reduce unforced errors,” resulting in similar scores for everyone in the lineup across the board. 

Christopher went 12-0 in league play last season and 11-1 in 2016. Despite the program’s success, Navarro emphasized he would like to see more girls try out for the golf team, not only at Christopher but Gilroy as well. This year’s Christopher’s lineup includes seniors Sarah Finch and Vogel, juniors Kennedy Ruelas and Kaylyn Scourbys and sophomore Emma Horn. Through the team’s first four league matches, the Cougars are averaging a whopping 63 strokes fewer than their opponents. 

“Horn has the power, Scourbys has the touch, Ruelas has the consistency,” Navarro said. “Seniors Finch and Vogel both have distance and control, (but they) just have not been able to put them both together at the same match. … I let Sammie lead her team, and she has these girls playing well. This team is dangerously close to being the strongest (golf team) CHS has ever put together.” 

Vogel shot her best round of the season, a 49 in a Oct. 4 match win at Gilroy Golf Course. She said the key was slowing things down and pacing herself. 

“I started slowing down and not rushing myself,” she said. “I know I have to stay slow and maintain my tempo so I give my body time to catch up with my swing.”

Navarro emphasized the team aspect, noting even though Finch is the No. 1 golfer by her scores, she plays in the last group instead of the first group. So what makes this team truly a family? Constant support and encouragement, on and off the course. 

“When we’re out there and see each other in down times, we pick each other up,” Vogel said. “Sometimes it’s hard to lighten the mood back up when you’re out there and struggling, but that is why you have teammates there for you.”

Vogel plans on becoming a child therapist/psychologist or grief counselor, because it was the latter that helped her process the emotions of losing a parent at a young age. 

“I want to help others because of what I went through,” she said. “I feel that when I was younger, I didn’t know how to express myself. I was a shy child until I started playing golf again. That is where I learned how to become a leader; it helped me be outspoken. I feel like I didn’t handle it (my dad’s death) very well until I learned how to cope with it.”

Vogel knows she had to grow up faster than her peers, and she has gotten stronger through a very tough situation. David was a longtime city maintenance employee when he was struck and killed by a van while marking utility lines in 2011. No child should ever have to go through the experience of losing a parent, but Vogel continues to bring honor to her father in the best way possible: by playing golf, the game he loved. 

“His first job out of college was on a golf course, so I know he loved the sport a lot,” Vogel said. “Going through the experience (of losing him) has definitely made me a stronger person.”

It shows.