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GIRLS' GOLF

Friend in Deed

Los Alamitos Girls Learn Winning Isn't Everything

November 21, 2000|PETER YOON

Michelle Eastlack earned her way into the Southern Section individual finals this year, just as she did a year ago. But unlike last year, Eastlack will tee it up with the other qualifiers when the tournament begins today at Mission Lakes Country Club in Desert Hot Springs.

Even if Eastlack hadn't qualified, Los Alamitos High teammate Jamie Oliver was prepared to give up her berth so Eastlack could play. After all, it would just be returning a favor.

Last year, Eastlack finished fifth in the league finals and earned the final berth allotted the Sunset League. But Eastlack sacrificed her spot and gave it to Oliver, the No. 1 player for Los Alamitos.

Oliver had been expected to contend for the league title last year and was a shoo-in for one of the league's five entries in the section finals, but she was struck on the wrist by a wayward golf ball during the league tournament and had to withdraw. The injury denied Oliver a chance at advancing to the section finals, an honor granted to the top five finishers in the league.

That's when Eastlack stepped in and requested her spot be given to Oliver.

"I knew Jamie had quite a few strokes on me," Eastlack said. "She had a much better chance than I did, so I was like, 'You know what? Let her go.' "

The move earned Eastlack the sportsmanship award for her team, and was not forgotten by Oliver, who recovered from her injury and went on to shoot 85 in the section final last year. She then lost a six-way playoff for the final berth in the CIF-WSCGA finals.

So it was no surprise that when Eastlack, Kayley Parrett of Esperanza and Minnie Choi of Fountain Valley were neck-and-neck during the homestretch of this year's Sunset League finals, Oliver was Eastlack's biggest fan.

"You bet I was," Oliver said. "I wanted her to get in more than I wanted me to get in. I felt really bad that she gave me her spot last year and then I didn't make the cut."

Oliver, who won the league title and is among the top girls' golfers in the county, so desperately wanted Eastlack to qualify that she was prepared to withdraw from the section finals had Eastlack finished out of the top five.

"I would have given her my spot," Oliver said. "No questions asked. She's a senior, it's her last chance to play. I'm only a sophomore."

Eastlack is relieved she didn't put her teammate in that position. She tied Parrett for third in the league finals, three strokes ahead of Choi, who got the final berth, and nine strokes behind Oliver.

"I'm very excited that we both get to go," Eastlack said. "We're going to stay together and have the attitude of having fun. If we make it to the [CIF-WSCGA finals] then awesome, but there's no point in going to Palm Springs if we're not going to have fun."

Oliver said that Eastlack's gesture last year illustrated what type of person she is.

"It's natural for her," Oliver said. "It's just her personality. If you sit with her in a room for just one minute, you would see that she doesn't think about herself."

Eastlack has improved a great deal since last year. She shot a career-best 79 at the Southern Divisional Nov. 6 at El Prado, helping the Griffins advance to the section finals for the first time. And because of a 10-12 stroke improvement by Eastlack over last season, Los Alamitos easily won the Sunset League title after finishing third a year ago.

Eastlack, who intends to study chemical engineering in college, is a candidate for early admission to Stanford. An accomplished all-around athlete, she also competes for a local crew team but says her grades will take top priority when she arrives at college.

"Academics is first," Eastlack said. "It would be nice to play on one of the sports teams, but it would be a cherry on top."

Eastlack does not envision a fairy-tale ending to the season. She is is aiming for the chance to advance to the CIF-WSCGA finals next week.

"I'd like to shoot a career best," she said. "I'm hoping for a 78 or better."

TITLE UP FOR GRABS

With 10 of the top players in Southern California skipping the section finals in order to play a national tournament in Florida, the tournament title is up for grabs.

Of the top 20 finishers last year, 10 were expected to return this year, including runner-up Ina Kim of North Hollywood Havard-Westlake and fourth-place finisher Hwanhee Lee of Cerritos.

But Kim and Lee, along with top-10 finishers Erica Blasberg of Corona and Irene Cho of Sunny Hills, are among those heading to Florida. That leaves Angela Won of University (5th), Priscilla Park of Villa Park (T10) and Shelly Raworth of Villa Park (T10) as the only top-10 finishers from last year who will play this year.

Won, coming off a medalist performance at the section team finals, where she shot 75 and was the only player in the field to break 80, has to be considered the favorite.

Walailak Satarak of Paramount, who finished 28th last season but then won the CIF-WSCGA title two weeks later, will not be able to defend her season-ending title. Paramount did not qualify for the CIF-WSCGA tournament as a team and the only other way to get in is to finish in the top 50 today.

O.C. MAKES MARK

There are 41 Orange County players in the 124-player field today. League champions entered are: Park of Villa Park from the Century League, Won of University from the Pacific Coast, Oliver of Los Alamitos from the Sunset, Leisl Hasbrouck of Aliso Niguel from the Sea View, Carling Cho of Dana Hills from the South Coast, Jenn Sanders of Rosary from the Serra, Kim Seelau of Kennedy from the Empire and Jennifer Perales of Valencia from the Orange.

If you have an item or idea for the girls' golf report, you can fax us at (714)966-5663 or e-mail peter.yoon@latimes.com

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