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Diferent Strokes

Shearer, Park Hit From Men's Tees, Stay Up With the Boys


Don't feel sorry for Krystal Shearer and Julie Park because they have to compete against boys.

Don't pity them because, like all girls who compete in high school golf, they must play from the men's tees.

They certainly don't get any sympathy from their male competitors.

That's because Shearer, a sophomore at Alemany High, and Park, a junior at Granada Hills, are beating the boys on a regular basis.

Park has fluctuated between the top two playing spots for the Highlanders, who are among the favorites to win the City Section title. She has been medalist in five of her team's nine matches, including a victory over defending City Section boys' champion Burley Stamps of Palisades.

Shearer is the No. 5 golfer for Alemany, which is favored to win a third consecutive title in the competitive Mission League. Her scores have counted six times in Alemany's 10 matches. Although she has yet to win medalist honors, she defeated all of her teammates in a practice round by shooting one-over par at Knollwood Golf Course two weeks ago.

"It's hard going out there against the boys; I'm not going to lie," Shearer said. "They really push you and it's especially hard to get used to playing from the blue tees."

High school golf in Southern California is unisex, with no separate teams for girls, who must be good enough to compete with boys. Teams from Louisville and La Reina, all-girls' schools, compete in boys' leagues, but neither has come close to winning a match.

Next fall, the Southern Section will sanction girls' golf for the first time. However, girls at City Section schools will have to go on playing against boys.

Park doesn't seem to mind.

"It can be an advantage," she said. "Sometimes the guys are thinking, 'What can this girl do?' or 'How bad must this team be if a girl is their No. 1 player?' Then I go out and beat them and that's kind of fun."

There are disadvantages.

In the 1997 City Section championships, Park had to play from the men's tees because she was a scoring member for Granada Hills. Team and individual tournaments are held simultaneously and girls who are not scoring team members are allowed to play from the women's tees, which are shorter in distance to the greens.

Park, who won the 1996 girls' City Section title, lost last season to teammate Saki Uechi, who played from the women's tees.

"That wasn't fair," Park said. "I think everyone should have to play from the [women's] tees or the [men's] tees in a tournament like that."

Shearer, 1997 Southern California PGA girls' champion, remembers coming home in tears after shooting poor scores from the men's tees.

"I felt like quitting a couple of times," she said. "There's too much pressure and stress, and it gets really frustrating when you're not scoring like you're used to. All you're doing is hitting driver, three-wood or driver, three-iron on every hole."

After a few rounds of adjusting to playing longer distances, Shearer's scores and confidence improved.

"I gained a lot of respect from my teammates," she said. "At first I felt kind of alienated because they didn't know what I was doing out there. Now I feel like part of the team."

Alemany Coach Jim Bonds can sympathize with Shearer's plight.

"Last year was miserable for her," Bonds said. "It's tough enough just to be a freshman on varsity, but as a girl? But she definitely earned their respect and proved that she belongs."

Now, Shearer said, she enjoys competing against boys.

"My three-wood is my favorite club now," she said. "We've bonded well for the last two years."

When Shearer is playing well, it can cause her male opponents to lose focus.

"It can really get into their heads,' Bonds said. "They don't really know how to take losing to a girl. I know if I was one of those guys, I probably wouldn't want to admit it."

Park welcomes the challenge of honing her skills against a high level of competition.

"I can learn a lot from [boys]," she said. "Some of them have more experience and a better mental game. Watching that can only make me a better player."

Park is glad the City Section will not follow the Southern Section's lead and offer girls' golf next school year.

"I would like to play with girls if there were enough at a higher level that I could learn from them," she said. "Right now they all look to me as a role model, but I don't think I'm good enough to learn from."

Some of the boys she has beaten would probably disagree.

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