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FORE May/June 2012 : Page 52

FOUNDATION Holding Her Own BY ERIC NOLAND PHOTOS BY TOM MENDOZA SACHI HAMADA AT LOS COYOTES CC WITH (FROM LEFT) LUKE PARK, BROTHER DARIO HAMADA AND CHRIS CHU. t AS THE ONLY GIRL ON THE GOLF TEAM AT SUNNY HILLS HIGH IN FULLERTON, SACHI HAMADA HAS DEMONSTRATED THAT IT’S NOT WISE TO UNDERESTIMATE HER ABILITY. he scene will play out from time to time when the Sunny Hills High School boys’ golf team is playing a match. A member of the opposing team will bomb a tee shot down the middle of the fairway, and Sunny Hills’ Sachi Hamada will follow with a comparatively meek drive that rolls to a halt 30 yards short of that. The opponent might assume that she is inwardly defl ated, all but beaten. Big mistake. Instead, she is confi dently thinking, “I’ll make that up by the second or third shot.” “My teammates call me the secret weapon,” Hamada said with a chuckle the other day at Los Coyotes Country Club in Buena Park. “I think at fi rst [the other players] think, ‘Oh, she’s a girl, I can hit it farther, I can play better than her.’ And then we get up to the green and I’m 3 feet next to the hole, one putt, and I’m beating them. Then they get intimidated and start worrying.” A Sunny Hills teammate, Chris Chu, added, “I think sometimes guys might say, ‘Wow, how are we los-SCGA.ORG 52 | FORE Magazine | MAY/JUNE 2012

SCGA Foundation

Eric Noland

<br /> Holding Her Own<br /> <br /> AS THE ONLY GIRL ON THE GOLF TEAM AT SUNNY HILLS HIGH IN FULLERTON, SACHI HAMADA HAS DEMONSTRATED THAT IT’S NOT WISE TO UNDERESTIMATE HER ABILITY.<br /> <br /> The scene will play out from time to time when the Sunny Hills High School boys’ golf team is playing a match. A member of the opposing team will bomb a tee shot down the middle of the fairway, and Sunny Hills’ Sachi Hamada will follow with a comparatively meek drive that rolls to a halt 30 yards short of that. The opponent might assume that she is inwardly defl ated, all but beaten.<br /> <br /> Big mistake. Instead, she is confi dently thinking, “I’ll make that up by the second or third shot.”<br /> <br /> “My teammates call me the secret weapon,” Hamada said with a chuckle the other day at Los Coyotes Country Club in Buena Park. “I think at fi rst [the other players] think, ‘Oh, she’s a girl, I can hit it farther, I can play better than her.’ And then we get up to the green and I’m 3 feet next to the hole, one putt, and I’m beating them. Then they get intimidated and start worrying.”<br /> <br /> A Sunny Hills teammate, Chris Chu, added, “I think sometimes guys might say, ‘Wow, how are we losing to her?’ They seem kind of shocked by it, I guess.”<br /> <br /> Hamada, who volunteers at the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim and is active with the SCGA Foundation, said she has welcomed the challenges ever since she tried out for the team as a freshman. She could have gone to another high school in Fullerton, Troy, which has a girls’ golf team. But she was drawn to the excellence of the Sunny Hills program, which is led by Coach Tim Devaney. Besides, it wasn’t as if this was an unblazed trail – Devaney has a rich history of welcoming girls onto the boys’ team. The school won the state championship in 2008 with two girls on the squad, one of whom was Kristen Park, who recently turned pro after one season at USC.<br /> <br /> Hamada resolved to be equal to the task from the first day she showed up for tryouts at the driving range. All the boys, she said, “hit so far, and I knew I would have to play off the blue tees if I made the team, so that would be my biggest struggle. But I just really practiced my short game. I got really good at it. I was hitting straight and accurately and consistently.”<br /> <br /> The words are nearly an exact echo of what Nikki Gatch recalls from her days playing on the boys’ team at Palm Desert High School in the late-1980s. “I think it made me a better player, having to compete with the boys, step up my game and play from a different set of tees,” said Gatch, player development regional manager for the PGA of America and an SCGA Foundation volunteer. “I was not a long hitter. Being up against the boys made it a challenge, but in the long run it made me a better player. I had to hone my short game a lot. It was a great experience for me. I honestly wouldn’t have had it any other way.”<br /> <br /> Excelling at golf and fitting in with an all-male team are distinctly different challenges, however. Hamada recalls that when she joined the Sunny Hills team as a freshman, only one boy came up to her, introduced himself and welcomed her. The rest kept their distance? “Yeah,” she said. “Even when we played, they just sort of told me where to aim and then they walked off. It was kind of different. Then, sooner or later, we started talking when we played matches. They got to know me a little bit. Now it’s more interactive.”<br /> <br /> Among the adjectives Devaney uses to describe Hamada are quiet, strong, considerate, friendly. Because golf is such an individual game, chemistry isn’t achieved as readily as in a conventional team sport, he said, but “the boys feel comfortable around her,” a fact he said is attributable to her sunny personality.<br /> <br /> That has been apparent during her participation in various SCGA Foundation activities, too. Hamada played with brother Dario in last year’s Golf Marathon fund-raiser. She expressed gratitude for the many value-priced buckets of balls she has received through Youth on Course. And, as a student with a 3.67 grade-point average who is taking three honors classes, she is an enthusiastic proponent of G.A.M.E. Days. “They’re always so much fun for me,” she said. “I get to play on beautiful golf courses that I thought I’d never get to play – like Bel-Air. And meeting different members gives me a broader look at ways I can focus my career.”<br /> <br /> In the meantime, though, she’ll continue to focus on her forte on the golf course – getting up and down – and not fretting about how those guys crush it off the tee. As such, she’ll have a kindred spirit in Nikki Gatch.<br /> <br /> “That’s the fun part about it, even today,” Gatch said. “If I play with my brother or husband, it’s all about the end result, the score. It’s not about how you get there.” <br />

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