In 2017, the girls golf team lifted the trophy at the Helen Lengfeld Tournament, beating rival St. Francis by one stroke. The tournament marked the beginning of an era of dominance for the team. Since then, the girls have yet to lose a match. That makes for five years of undefeated golf and appearances in two state championship tournaments in 2019 and 2021, including a 2019 win.
Paly alumna Priya Bakshi, who golfed with the team until her graduation in 2020, said the Helen Lengfeld tournament offered their first glimpse into the team’s potential.
“It was the first time we had ever won a major tournament,” Bakshi said. “It was a big deal for us, and that was when we realized how good we could actually be.”
The team’s dominance is thanks to a large number of tournament-experienced players, according to head coach Doyle Knight.
“For a few years, we had seven or eight solid players, and you don’t hear that too often,” Knight said. “The girls put the time and effort in to make the program so good.”
Knight also said the best players positively influenced the rest of the team.
“They see what it takes to be at a high level,” Knight said. “They put the time and effort in to be as good as they can.”
Team captain Lauren Sung attributed much of the team’s success to their chemistry with each other.
“We’re a family,” Sung said. “Our top six is really close-knit, and we’re always together.”
As years passed and the team’s undefeated streak remained, Sung said the team began to feel the burden of keeping its success going.
“Paly has a reputation among girls golf and an expectation to win every league match,” Sung said. “It does add pressure.”
The team’s run of dominance peaked in 2019, when they became the first girls golf team from Northern California to win the state championship.
“It was the highlight of my Paly career,” Bakshi said. “It was our last year, and our last chance to win states with the team. We didn’t put too much pressure on ourselves, because our goal was to make it to states.”
The team had gone into the state finals as the sixth seed out of six, and Sung said this underdog status helped them thrive.
“We were going into it with no expectations whatsoever,” Sung said. “Even if you had a bad hole, the pressure was off.”
This year the team once again entered the state championship as the last seed. In the tournament at Poppy Hills golf course in Pebble Beach, the girls fought their way to a second place finish behind Granite Bay High School.
Despite the team’s dominance, Sung worries that girls golf does not get the recognition it deserves.
“It’s sad to see that we haven’t made an impact among the students here,” Sung said. “It sucks because I feel like we put in a lot of work to gain this reputation in the golf community.”
All seven golfers who were part of the state championship team either are playing or will play at the college level, with four already graduated and playing at Dartmouth, Lehigh, Amherst and UC Davis, while of the three who remain two will be golfing at Michigan and one at Penn.
The entire 2019 team will be gone after this year, but Sung said she’s optimistic about the team’s future.
“Everyone on the team is incredibly motivated to continue our streak of winning,” Sung said. “They’re going to continue the Paly reputation and the relationship we all have with each other.”