As a freshman, Lalita Boonnoppornkul of North Hollywood High shot 125 in a league final at Balboa Golf Course, which translates to 53 over par.
"How did I do that?" she said. "I must have shot 10 every hole."
Last year, as a junior, she tied for first in the league final with a 77. That's an improvement of 48 strokes in two years.
"I was determined to get better, and just practiced and practiced," she said.
The Boonnoppornkul family doesn't just eat together at the dinner table. They golf together and enjoy themselves as if they were at Disneyland.
The mother, Sunee, serves as the driver for Lalita, brother Soonthorn, 14, and sister Jane, 7. Five days a week, from late afternoon until it's dark, they're hitting ball after ball at the Griffith Park driving range.
Lalita would gladly stay until the lights were turned off, but with a 4.1 grade-point average, she has to spend a little time on homework.
"And I'm hungry," she said.
On Saturdays, the whole family, including father Somsak, used to drive to an Arleta golf range, and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., they'd hit balls. It was almost a picnic-type atmosphere. Mom would sit in a chair and watch or read the newspaper. Lalita and her siblings would practice and practice. Even Dad got to hit some balls.
"It was like one fourth of the driving range was our family," Lalita said.
After taking lessons and constant practice, Boonnoppornkul has become a golfer good enough to make a college team next season.
"Her work ethic is unbelievable," Coach Steve Miller said. "Her discipline is tremendous."
Blame her brother for bringing golf into her family's everyday life. One day, when he was 10, he played miniature golf with some friends, liked it and created his own golf course at home, digging a hole in the backyard, using sticks as irons and a tennis ball. He convinced his father to take him to a real driving range and dragged Lalita with him.
"At first, she didn't want to play," Soonthorn said. "She was like, 'I'm never going to get better.' She was pessimistic. Now she says, 'I'll beat you.' "
Said Lalita: "At first it was fun, smacking the ball around, but I couldn't hit it anywhere. Then I took lessons. I didn't know anything. It was the first time putting golf clubs in my hands. You have to be real calm and patient."
The parents, natives of Thailand, want their children to use golf as a way to get into a good college.
Soonthorn, who goes by Joe, could be one of the top golfers on the North Hollywood boys' team this season as a freshman. And Jane could end up as the best golfer in the family with her early start.
Miller said the parental support is impressive: "It is a family out of the 1950s. They're all together. The mom just takes the kids everywhere. She's there for them."
The parental commitment makes Lalita want to achieve success.
"The key is to make my parents proud," she said. "They put a lot of time and money into golf."
Once unable to hit a ball straight or very far, Lalita can send the ball flying 240 yards. She qualified for last year's state tournament and shot 69 at the demanding Knollwood Golf Course in Granada Hills during the summer.
Her days of shooting 125 for 18 holes are a distant memory.
"It's just a funny joke," she said.
\o7Eric Sondheimer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.