The Palo Alto girls golf team accomplished more in its first season of existence than most teams do in program history. The Vikings shared the SCVAL regular-season title with Gunn, captured their first-ever Central Coast Section crown, and finished second at the NorCal Championships.
To top it all off, Palo Alto grabbed fourth place at the NCGA/CIF/CGA Girls State Championships on Wednesday at Quail Lodge Golf Club in Carmel Valley. The Vikings had 423 strokes to trail state champ Torrey Pines (364) plus Diamond Bar and Walnut, who finished tied for second with 396 strokes.
Palo Alto wound up as the top team from the CCS and No. 2 squad (to Diamond Bar) from Northern California. CCS champ St. Francis (Mountain View) finished fifth with 438 strokes while Amador Valley (Pleasanton) was sixth at 447.
"Great season," said Paly coach Doyle Knight. "I'm very proud of the girls. The three players who were not part of the top six came down to cheer on the others. At the end of the 18th hole, they would run up to their teammates after they finished and gave them a big hug. By the time Michelle came in, all eight were there waiting to give her a hug."
Palo Alto junior Michelle Xie, who won medalist honors at both the CCS and NorCal tournaments, tied for eighth Wednesday while shooting a 3-over 74. She had the second-lowest score by a NorCal golfer. Elizabeth Schultz of Acalanes shot 71.
"Michelle was very upset at the end," said Knight. "She knew she left some shots on the course she should have made. As the girls ran up to her she started crying. Under the stress of wanting to do well, college coaches watching and a long season, it finally caught up to her.
"In the tough matches, she was the backbone of the team. She was the one who had to score low so the other four could come in and finish it off."
Xie was on pace to shoot even-par until running into a string of bad luck over the final three holes. She had a bogey-5 on the 347-yard 16th, which ranked as the second-toughest hole on the course. Xie followed that with a bogey-4 on the 133-yard par-3 17th and finished up with a bogey-5 on the 366-yard 18th, the toughest hole on the day.
Paly senior Annie Chen and freshman Emily Hwang each shot 81 to tie for 33rd overall. Senior Audrey Horn carded a 90 and freshman Celia Willner wrapped up the scoring with a 97. Freshman Elise Kiya had a non-scoring 99.
"Unfortunately, we did not play to our average," Knight said. "Even if we had, we still would not have won. Torrey Pines had too many really good golfers. But, we could have gotten second. I'm happy with a top-five finish . . . I'm sad to see Annie and Audrey go. It would have been nice to have one more season together."
Gunn senior Jayshree Sarathy, who competed as an individual, fired a 5-over 77 to wrap up her highly successful prep career.