2016-09-30 / Sports
Rookies rule the links
Freshman stars have helped turn Simi Valley girls’ golf team into a winner
Call it the Stella and Sejal Show, playing on a golf course near you.
Stella Maples and Sejal Parsi, both freshmen, lead a horde of talented youngsters that have helped the Simi Valley High girls’ golf team get back on track after a winless run through the Coastal Canyon League in 2015.
The rookies helped the Pioneers start this year with eight straight victories.
“They’ve been doing very well,” third-year head coach Andy Silva said. “They’ve really come a long way. They’ve come from being in the high 40s to the lower 40s.”
Maples guided Simi Valley (9-2 overall, 4-2 in league) to an upset win over Moorpark on Sept. 21 by shooting a career-best 39 at Simi Hills Golf Course. Parsi shot a season-best 40 to help the Pioneers wrap up the signature victory.
The Coastal Canyon teams will come together to play nine holes on Oct. 13 at Los Robles Greens Golf Course in Thousand Oaks, then 18 holes on Oct. 18 at Soule Park in Ojai to decide the league champ.
Silva said Simi Valley’s superstar freshmen were as much a surprise to him as they were to the rest of the league.
The rookies are dedicated to the sport.
Maples and Parsi, who are both 14 years old, were the only Pioneers to brave the triple-digit heat on Sept. 26. Practice was cancelled, but both players showed up to fine-tune their short game on the putting green at Simi Hills, a place that has become a home away from home for both freshmen.
“It tells you how much determination they have to be a better golfer,” Silva said. “I’m sure there are players on the (LPGA) Tour that go through situations like they’re going through today in the heat. They have to endure the elements.
“They don’t have to be here, but they want to. That’s the difference between them and a recreational golfer.”
Maples, the daughter of Iceoplex figure skating instructor Petrina Maples, is a converted figure skater. The Pioneer shows grace on the ice as a performer in shows and in competitions, including rinks in San Jose to Oregon. She’s dazzled on the ice for 12 years.
Golf is something new for the natural athlete.
She signed up for lessons at Simi Hills with Matt Williamson, the head coach of the Pioneer boys’ team, in late August.
Her game’s improved drastically. She would score in the high 50s during the summer. She’s consistently shooting in the low 40s now. She was surprised by the 39 she shot against Moorpark.
The success only fuels her fire to succeed on the links.
She never misses a team practice, which run from 2:15 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. on weekdays. She usually stays on the course until about 7 p.m. to put in extra work on her swing.
“Everyone asks why I’m here so much,” she said. “It’s because I’m dedicated.”
Maples said the balance, posture and leg strength she built on the ice translates well into her golf swing. She’s improved most on her chipping, which she spends hours working on with her father, Adam Maples, an avid golfer.
“My chipping has saved me so many times,” Maples said.
Parsi started taking weekly golf lessons with Simi Hills instructor Mike Metz three years ago. In December 2015, she set a goal of earning a varsity spot on Simi Valley’s team.
“I didn’t even think I’d make the team,” she said.
Now, Parsi is one of the Pioneers’ most consistent golfers.
She’s almost always at the course fine-tuning her chipping game. She also stays hours after practice, sometimes until sundown.
“I don’t like to leave,” Parsi said.
Her putter is her most effective tool when she’s roaming the greens.
Silva said Parsi is a special talent.
“She hits the ball well off the tee,” the coach said. “She’s a fairly good putter in and around the green. When she’s concentrating, she can really be deadly. She can put the ball close when she really wants to.”
Parsi said the toughest part of high school has been balancing her time between golf and school.
“Sometimes I’ll get home at 7:30 and I have a lot of homework,” she said. “It can be tiring.”
It hasn’t affected her grades. She flaunts a 4.0 grade-point average.
Parsi, who is a member of the Key Club on campus, said she’ll continue to keep her grades up and her golf scores low so she can play golf in college.
“I want to get into a good college so I can become a surgeon,” she said.
Silva said sophomores Emily Rodnunsky, Riley White, Madison Wade, Emily Taylor and Taylor Devine bolster the Pioneers’ youth movement.
Savannah Hatfield, the only senior on the team, leads the young program, which has seen an increase in participants in recent years. The program only had six golfers in 2014 but jumped to 15 last year. The program boasts 31 girls this season.
“They may step in and vie for one of these starting spots,” Silva said of the underclassmen. “I’m happy we have as many girls out wanting to learn about the game. They’re doing well.”
Email Jonathan Andrade at firstname.lastname@example.org.