Young Badger golfers off to good start

There are a lot of new faces on this year’s Yosemite High School girls golf team - a team challenged to defend the school’s 2014 CIF D-II Section Championship.

Last year’s championship team was led by four seniors - Jessica Rudd, Kelsi Stieler, Jordyn Ahrens and Libby Haggard - and a strong freshman, Claire Oetinger. Two of those seniors are now playing in college. Rudd, who was named to the Fresno Bee All Star golf team after winning the NSL and Central Section D-II titles last year, is a member of the Reedley Community College team, and Ahrens is playing for South Western Oregon Community College in Bandon.

“We are basically starting over,” said coach Rusty Oetinger, who was named Co-Coach of the Year in the Central Section by the Fresno Bee last season after his team won the section title and its 10th-consecutive league title.

Currently the No. 1 player on the team is Oetinger, the coach’s daughter and a sophomore, along with Rebekka Neilson, a transfer from Eureka, at the No. 2 spot. Neilson is the only senior on the team.

The balance of the team is made up of three sophomores, Peyton Garner, Sara Davey, and first-year player Sara Meeks, juniors Hailey Abrahams, Zoe Bush, and Georgie Royce, and two very promising freshman, Trinity Curtis and Meagan Rich.

“The big surprise this year has been freshman Trinity (Curtis) and Meagan (Rich),” Coach Oetinger said. “Trinity has established herself as a starter on the varsity team with her natural ability and competitive desire. She has only been playing golf for five weeks and has accomplished some amazing milestones. She has made the starting varsity squad in all of the matches this year, and at the last tournament broke 50 for nine holes. She is well on her way to an outstanding career as a golfer at Yosemite High.”

Early in the season, Rich has already played in two varsity events.

“Despite being very young, the girls are really competitive and push each other to be better,” Oetinger said. “I can only play six girls each week, so the girls have to not only compete against the other teams in the league, but also against each other.”

Good start

The team has started off where it left off last year, winning two league tournaments.

“Claire is currently the No. 1 player in league and is playing very well,” said Oetinger. “Last year, we finished with four of the top six players in league. This year, we are winning by being a solid and consistent team. The only loss this year has come from Madera High School. They are a very deep team with a lot of upperclassmen. They are very much like we were last year. I believe they will be the best D-III team in the Valley this year.

“I am enjoying this season,” Oetinger continued. “We are taking the matches one week at a time. I feel we could have a run of great seasons. Many members of this team are committed to the game of golf and are playing on their own on the weekends. It’s nice to be able to coach without the pressure and the expectations of having to win every match like last year, however, with the attitude the players have, I won’t be surprised if we finish very strong and are competitive in the postseason.”