Player of the year Christine Uhalde exceeded goals during stellar 2008 season
By Will DeBoard
Christine Uhalde first picked up a golf club six years ago. But even then, she showed a lot of promise.
On the very first hole she played -- the leadoff hole at River Oaks Golf Course that spans about 100 yards and change -- she made par.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Merced Sun-Star
"I hit a grounder that rolled all the way to the green," said the Johansen High junior. "Then I two-putted."
She's not hitting too many grounders anymore. But the pars and birdies sure are coming.
After a season that saw her become only the second girls golfer in Stanislaus District history to advance to the CIF State Girls Golf Championships, Uhalde is The Bee's 2008 Girls Golfer of the Year.
It was a season that saw Uhalde go even further than her lofty goals.
"My goal at the beginning of the season was to go to (the CIF Northern California Regional Championships)," she said. "I'd improved a lot since my sophomore season. I felt that was a pretty good step."
She went beyond that. Uhalde won the Modesto Metro Conference Tournament, then her 3-over-par 75 was good for co-medalist honors at the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I South Championship at Lockeford Springs in Lodi.
That score of 75 would prove to be a good number. She shot it again to finish tied for third at the section Masters Tournament at The Reserve at Spanos Park, then again at the Norcal Championships at Corral de Tierra Country Club in Salinas, earning her a spot at the state championships at Red Hill Country Club in Rancho Cucamonga.
"The postseason was my focus," Uhalde said. "I stayed pretty consistent. And even at state, I had the two bad holes that cost me."
At state, she shot a 6-over-par 80 -- with two holes in which she took a triple bogey -- finishing in a tie for 15th place.
"I wish I could've played a little better," she said. "But that gives me incentive to go back next year."
Uhalde's game started improving when she picked up a swing coach -- Del Rio Country Club's Mitch Lowe -- who changed her stroke.
"I had a pretty flat swing, and he made it more upright," Uhalde said. "I started playing better right away; I was more consistent. And I started practicing a lot more, too."
It led to under-par rounds during MMC play, and her postseason run to state.
"You start playing better, and it gives you more confidence," Uhalde said.
It took her all the way to the state championships.
Bee staff writer Will DeBoard can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2300.
Coach of the year:
Jim Pecchenino, Central Catholic
Pecchenino earns this award for the second time in his career (he won it in 2002 as well) after helping lead the Raiders to the Valley Foothill League South title and a third-place finish at the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V championships. Two of his golfers -- Jessica Ferlmann and Giovanna Pecchenino -- advanced to the section Masters tournament.
East Union senior
The VOL MVP averaged a 38 in league play -- a school and league record. Co-medalist at the section Masters with a 74, she also led the Lancers to three consecutive D-IV titles. She takes a 3.5 GPA to Fresno State.
Bret Harte senior
The two-time VFL North MVP averaged a 38 in league and was medalist with a 76 at the section D-V tourney. She fired a 77 at Masters and is off to Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo.
Finished in the top six at every event, topping talented D-I players at Merced and Tracy. Set the school record with a nine-hole, 1-under 30 at the Escalon course. No. 1 player on school's record-setting team.
The Valley Foothill League South MVP, Ballard led the Huskies to sixth place at the section Division V Tournament. She fired a 76 at the league tournament, as the surprising Huskies finished in second place.
Golden Valley senior
A four-year standout for the Cougars, she shot a 78 to finish fourth at the section D-I South Tournament and followed with a 77 at the Masters. Four-time all-CCC pick was also a two-time CCC MVP.
Sister Marina was two-time District Player of the Year, and still she exceeded lofty expectations. The MMC MVP shot a 78 at the D-I Tournament and 77 at Masters -- missing a NorCal tourney berth by a stroke.
East Union senior
Four-year starter was co-medalist at Merced and Sierra events, and set 9-hole record with 2-under 34 at Oakdale. D-IV runner-up and a four-year starter, she will play next at Cal State Monterey Bay.
CCC tournament champion and league co-MVP made the all-CCC team four years and her Bulldogs teams never lost a CCC match in that time. Shot a 78 at section Masters, missing NorCals by one stroke. Carries a 3.9 GPA.
*RETURNING MEMBER OF THE ALL-DISTRICT TEAM