Palm Desert girls should still smile despite rugged final tournament

It’s pretty safe to say that the ride home from the CIF girls state championship in Rancho Cucamonga was a quiet one for the Palm Desert High School team. Entering the tournament with some hope of winning the state title at Red Hill Country Club, the Aztecs instead produced one of their worst days of the year to finish fourth in the event. The 440 total team score was actually kind of shocking in how uncharacteristic it was of the team.

Looking back on the day, the players and coaches, head coach Jack Stewart and assistant Debbie Koyama,  are sure to feel like they let an opportunity slip through their golf gloves. They finished 39 shots out of first place and 20 shots out of second place and one shot out of third, but the team has to know that there were 30 more more shots that logically could have been shaved off the team’s score. Surprisingly high scores from some of the team’s players seemed unexplainable, even if you know the Red Hill course had amazingly fast greens that even had coaches shaking their heads, lots of trees and lots of elevation changes, things that aren’t usually found in the desert.

Junior Mackenzie Raim, left, and freshman Jiyoon Jang of the Palm Desert High School girls golf team on a happier day earlier this season (Wade Byers,/The Desert Sun)

But hopefully after the depression of the day disappears in a few days, the Palm Desert girls will be able to focus on the positives of the year. Like another undefeated season in the Desert Valley League. Or the fact that the team reached the state tournament for the third year in a row in a year that was supposed to be about rebuilding after losing three solid seniors from last year’s team.

And there is the fact that the Aztecs finished as the fourth-best team in the state of California. That’s alone is a remarkable statistic.

Oh, and there is this: The six players the Aztecs played in the state tournament Tuesday are all back next year. That would be four juniors and two freshmen. Not to get too far ahead of ourselves here, but some opposing coaches Tuesday (after the Aztecs had packed up and left) were talking about just how tough Palm Desert could be next year.

So for the moment there is some pain and a lot of self-questioning among the Aztecs for sure. But in the coming days and weeks, hopefully the players and coaches will understand what a special year they had, even if it ended on the wrong note.