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FALL SPORTS PREVIEW '98

Golf's Gain Is Pain for One

Preps: After playing for Villa Park's boys' varsity team as a freshman, state rule forces Shelly Raworth to play on less competitive girls' team.

September 15, 1998|MICHAEL ITAGAKI | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Girls' golf begins its inaugural season as an officially sanctioned sport this fall, complete with individual and team championships. And Villa Park sophomore Shelly Raworth is already dealing with the sport's growing pains.

As a freshman last season, she qualified as an individual for the Southern California Golf Assn. girls' individual finals--the closest equivalent to a state championship tournament. She also competed on the Villa Park boys' varsity, helping the Spartans win a league title.

But according to Southern Section Commissioner Dean Crowley, because of a state rule that went into effect for the 1996-97 school year, Raworth does not have an option to compete again with the boys' team this spring.

If Villa Park did not field a girls' team, Raworth could play on the boys' team, just like Brea Olinda's Jeri Costello. If Raworth were older, she could play on the boys' team like Fountain Valley senior Candie Kung.

But Raworth will have to compete for the Spartans girls' team, which is made up of mostly beginning golfers. Villa Park boys' golf Coach Chris Salio said the disparity in the players' skill levels could be distracting for Raworth, who has been playing for more than six years.

And it could also place Raworth in a delicate position, to be their teammate or tutor?

"I don't want them to think that I'm too good," Raworth said. "I'm not one to just offer advice. It's one thing if someone asks you about something, but still . . .

"I don't want it to seem like I'm not part of the team. I just want to go out and do my best."

Crowley admitted the situation isn't perfect, but said the Southern Section is bound by the state rule.

"You've got to get the program going," Crowley said. "And if you continue to allow girls to play on the boys' teams . . . we need to have those young ladies as role models for the new sport."

Other county coaches agree it will just be a break-in period.

"Give it five to six years and it will go big time," Edison Coach Paul Harrell said. "Right now, it's just a great opportunity for kids to get started."

Woodbridge Coach Tracy Roberts understands the predicament but hopes everyone will persevere.

"If you don't ever open [golf] up to girls, there will always only be that top 1% of players who will still play and excel," Roberts said. "Sure the scores will not be terrific this year, but look at the vast improvement in boys' golf scores over the years."

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