The women’s golf team may be small, but their membership spans the globe. The four players on the Tiger team come from around the world: Kara Alam (sophomore) is from Pakistan, Hana Mizuno (junior) is from Japan, Kristin Oberiano (junior) is from Guam, and Ella Inman (junior) is from Michigan. After playing together for two years, however, the team has bridged many of their differences.
“We all know each other’s dynamics,” Inman said. “When to push buttons, when to be quiet—It just really works out.”
The Tigers have had a slow start to the season, which several of the players referred to as a “rebuilding year.” Inman was unable to practice throughout the summer and fall because of an ACL injury last spring, while Oberiano, the team’s top player, also spent significant time away from the golf course on her fall semester abroad.
On top of this, the team lost two talented seniors last year in Katie Park and Alexis Holmes. With only four players remaining on the team, the pressure to perform is high: Instead of being able to drop two players’ scores from the team total, each player’s score now counts in competition.
“It puts a little extra stress on everyone,”Alam said. “Next year when we don’t have that pressure any more we’ll probably look back and say, ‘Wow that was really hard.’”
Though they started their season with a disappointing last-place finish at SCIAC No. 1, coach Andrew Larkin ’12 believes that the team is bouncing back. He was especially proud of the team’s eighth place finish out of 12 at the Cal Lutheran Invite on March 16. Inman posted a career low at the tournament, and Oberiano posted her career best two weekends before, at the Cal State San Marcos Invite.
“Given that this team is smaller than most, I think they have done quite well,” Larkin said. “And individually we’ve made some big strides with all of our players reaching a new pinnacle on their game.”
The players acknowledged the difficulties of playing on a small team, but were quick to point out positives as well. The four teammates have ample time to get to know one another, with at least five practices a week and tournaments most weekends. But their time together is not restricted to the golf course: Alam and Inman are both members of Delta Omicron Tau sorority, and Mizuno and Oberiano are roommates.
“We know how each other play and we all kind of encourage each other,” Oberiano said. “It’s actually pretty funny, because even though we might have a medium score on the leaderboard, when each teammates gets their personal record we’re really excited.”
When the teammates aren’t pushing each other on the course, they like to test each other’s limits in the kitchen. According to Oberiano, she and Mizuno enjoy introducing their teammates to different Asian cuisines—and occasionally watching them squirm. As the only member of the team born in the continental U.S., Inman is usually the victim of their culinary experiments.
“I don’t remember where it was, but they made me eat a fish with eyeballs still on it,” Inman said. “That was fun.”
These culinary adventures usually happen after off-campus practices, at country clubs such as Chevy Chase or Annenburg. The team may be spending less time off campus, however, when the school opens its new, on-campus practice facility April 18. The facility will consist of a 2,500-square-foot putting range and hitting cage on campus.
“It’ll be really the first time the golfers—both men and women—really have had a home here on campus,” Larkin said, “That’s really going to give us a significant edge to develop these players going into next season.”
According to Oberiano, Larkin was one of the driving forces behind fundraising for the new facility. She was also impressed with his persistence in recruiting players for the coming year and his dedication to improving his own game. Alam, for her part, praised the positive relationship the coach maintains with the team.
“He strikes this really great balance between being a coach and a leader but also being a friend,” Alam said.
The team will attempt to improve on their initial SCIAC performance at SCIAC No. 2, Saturday, April 4 at Upland Hills.