By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Teeing up in Modesto today a pair of Santa Rosa Junior College women are swinging for the school’s newest team.
Former All-Empire prep player Abby Sortino and first timer Carla Torres are blazing the trail for SRJC women’s golf. Competing in the very challenging Big 8 Conference, the pair has steadily improved scores and worked off the course to promote the team.
“We’re just like trying to have fun and just making sure we can have a team next year,” Sortino said. “I’m actually really excited about it.”
Currently a club sport, SRJC women’s golf needs another 10 players to field a full-fledged team and develop players. Sortino, Torres and coach Derek Felciano are confident they can bolster the program with players on campus and from the high school ranks.
“We’re doing a lot of outreach. I think it will be a good team next year,” Torres said.
While SRJC has an established and very good men’s golf program, women’s golf originated just this past summer. More girls would have played this season, but class scheduling conflicts prevented several from having the time to practice and play conference matches.
More recruiting and better coordination with the college should help the team grow and become more established, said Felciano, a teaching pro at Bennett Valley Golf Course.
“The numbers are there. Our high schools have a lot of players,” he said. “We need to try to develop some players to play enough quality golf to compete and move on to four year programs.”
Practice and work with Felciano has helped both Sortino and Torres compete in one of the best conferences in the California Community College Athletic Association.
The college game is a major step up even for an All-Empire prep player such as Sortino, from Analy high. Daily practice and the discipline required to play 18 rather than 9 holes are the biggest adjustments, she said.
“There’s some really good golfers. At the end of a match you’re really proud of yourself,” Sortino said. “It makes you want to practice more. It makes you want to get better.”
A steep learning curve and high scores in the beginning did not discourage Torres. A soccer player at San Rafael high, Torres took up golf for the first time this summer.
“I like how challenging it is. The more you play with better players the better you get,” she said. “It’s been so much fun.”
Also a member of the SRJC women’s cross country team, Torres has managed to play both fall sports.
“I’ve been doing really well with time management,” she said. “Meeting new people and stuff is definitely rewarding.”
With dedicated athletes helping develop a foundation for the Santa Rosa team, Felciano hopes to have up to a dozen players next season. Teams need a minimum of four players to score in tournaments. Additional players help develop a team that can compete at the regional and state levels.
“You need depth so as a team you at least have a chance to qualify for NorCals,” Felciano said. “We’re certainly going to give it a fighting chance this offseason.”
After a strong first season Sortino looks forward to having a few more teammates to play with next year.
“It’s a lot of fun,” she said. “I hope we can get a team together and go for the Big 8 championship.”