Girls golf grateful for season despite fewer opportunities for team bonding

Katie Lew, Staff Writer

Ensley Uyeda (11) drives off the first tee at Rancho Bernardo Inn Golf Course during her match against Poway on April 5. Photo by Katie Lew.

After a year of giving up any hope for a season, Sanjana Gurram (12) was pleasantly surprised when she was able to go back out onto the golf course and play with her team in February. Being on the golf team this year has established the only sense of normalcy in her life, she said. 

“Being on the golf team is one of the only in-person activities that I currently have going on as an all-virtual student,” Gurram said. “A lot of the times now, we are doing team bonding and collaboration over Zoom, so being in the same environment physically, where we can have the same sense of collaboration, is really helpful with restoring the connection I’ve felt with my teammates from previous years.”

The girls golf team, excited and grateful for the opportunity to play with each other, has been back on the course since Feb. 18. Though, due to expected and unexpected changes, the season has had a chaotic start.

CDC guidelines have caused golf courses to receive less business and less revenue, so when high school teams ask to play on the courses for free, the teams are often booted to play later in the day as they are not as prioritized, coach David Mash said.

Because most golf courses don’t have lights on the course, it makes it incredibly hard to see where you are hitting at night, which has happened in many of the girls’ matches due to later game times. Starting as late as 5:30, the girls play as darkness sets in.

Unexpectedly, this season Mash, who was previously the boys golf coach, has had to juggle the responsibilities of being the coach of both teams this year. Previous girls golf coach, Beau Champoux, has been coaching the baseball team at Mira Mesa High School, which interferes with the girls’ season.

“Coach Mash has been combining our matches to be at the same location and day, just at different times,” Gurram said. “At the game against Poway, coach Mash had the boys tee off first, so our tee time got delayed but it was convenient because both teams got to play and he was able to be there for all of us.” 

The girls golf team has also been practicing independently, which is a huge change for most of the girls. Many feel a sense of loneliness as contact with their teammates has significantly decreased.

“In previous years, we used to practice at Morgan Run [Club and Resort] and typically we played a few holes as well during practice,” Gurram said. “But with COVID-19 guidelines, we can’t really do that anymore so we just play matches.” 

Ensley Uyeda (11) said that the biggest perk of the school golf team is the ability to play and socialize with peers who share the same passion as her.

“The point of playing in a team sport for high school is to practice together and play together,” Uyeda said. “For my personal needs, practicing alone did benefit my playing and skills, but I’m hoping next year that we will be able to play more as a team and have that team aspect during the season.”

Practicing together is only one part that contributes to team bonding. Uyeda said she recalls other activities that largely contributed to team bonding. 

“The biggest change is not being able to drive in the van,” Uyeda said. “Driving the van was a big part of the team bonding in my opinion, especially on long drives. We would play word games and it was just really nice being with the team.”

Gurram, despite agreeing with the fact that there are not as many opportunities to bond with the team this year, said that this has counter-intuitively strengthened the team’s relationship with each other.

“Typically, we have a lot of opportunities outside of the golf course to bond, like going to restaurants and things like that,” Gurram said. “We used to have team dinners and similar activities. We can’t do that now, which is perfectly fine because it has actually resulted in the team building strong team dynamics and trying to talk to each other more on course, which has made it more collaborative and social than it has been in the past.”

For newcomer Samantha Song (9), the season has offered an opportunity for her to build connections with her peers.

“I was scared when I came to high school because of COVID-19 since we are not able to meet in person and meet new people,” Song said. “But I’ve been able to connect with a lot of my teammates and I’ve made a lot of friends, which is really nice. Every time we play a game, we spend around four hours together with this small group, so it forces you to be friends. I think that’s fine because you have a lot of fun playing together and being able to talk to each other between holes.” 

Though Song said she wishes she had more time to spend with her teammates, she is satisfied with the golf season and the relationships she made along the way.

“My first game was really really nerve-wracking but after a while, you get used to the people you play with as you get to know them better,” Song said. “They’re also very supportive so it’s very reassuring. I’m normally paired up with teammates who have been around for a long time. They really try to encourage you to do your best.”

Gurram, who is playing her last season at Westview, says she is happy with how the season turned out and, given the circumstances, couldn’t imagine it going any better.

“All of us are super grateful to have a season in the first place regardless of what grade anyone is in,” Gurram said. “We’ve been playing a lot of schools we typically don’t play because we don’t have the usual course availability so it’s been fun to meet a lot of the other high schoolers we wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to meet. 

While the girls have had to make compromises in order to play this season, Gurram said that the pandemic has brought new opportunities and encounters that have made it worthwhile.

“Even though it’s been different than it has been the past few years, everyone seems to be doing great,” Gurram said. “I would say it’s going the best it possibly could’ve.”