SCHOOL: East Union High
ON THE COURSE: Brooke Riley dropped everything for golf after watching former Lancer Krysta Clark's rise to Division I scholarship athlete in 2009 (Fresno State). Two years later, Riley is well on her way to passing Clark in program lore.
"It's crazy," said Riley, the Bee's Girls Golfer of the Year. The freshman tore through Valley Oak League play, earning medalist honors in 12 of the 14 duals en route to MVP honors.
She tied Clark's tournament record at the Sierra Invitational with 1-over 73 at Manteca Park Golf Course, and posted the low round (81) at a rain-soaked Sac-Joaquin Section Division 4 championship in Stockton. East Union didn't skip a beat under its fresh-faced leader. The Lancers won their seventh straight VOL title, sixth D-4 crown in seven years, and finished fifth at Masters.
"I think she has the potential to be one of the best golfers I've taught, and one of the best females to ever come out of East Union," coach Dennis Wells said of Riley. Her season ended in frustration, though, as Riley missed the cut for NorCals by four strokes. "I've told her, 'It's OK to make mistakes,' " Wells said. " ' I want you to struggle. I want you to learn how to play good golf when you're struggling.' "
Her 6-over 78 was underscored by a four-putt on the 14th hole at The Reserve. "The biggest improvement for me is going to be putting," she said. "That'll make the scores really drop."
OFF THE COURSE: Riley's competitive juices spill over into all areas of her life. She is a high-achiever in the classroom, where her GPA hovers around a 4.0. At home, amongst three older brothers and a sister, the game room often becomes a battle ground for sibling supremacy. An avid pool and ping-pong player, Riley recently reached the championship match of her family's Christmas ping-pong tournament. "We're very competitive," she said with an honest laugh.
LOOKING AHEAD: The future is bright for Riley, though she's only one member of golf's new class of stars. Freshmen carried the flag for the district at Masters. Pitman's Taylor Beckwith posted the district's lowest score (77), while Merced's Netanya Hernandez (82) emerged as a force from the south.
However, Riley might have the most upside. With her natural athletic ability (she's a former volleyball, basketball and soccer player) and work ethic (she puts 12- to 14-hour days at the course over the summer), Wells believes her slip-up at Masters will be her last.
"The big errors still stick with me," Riley said. "I could have made it at NorCals if I didn't have water balls or three-putts. Next year, I really want to get to state, so that's a huge motivation for me to get that far."
QUOTABLE: "As a coach, you want to see all of your players reach their full potential. With her I see unlimited potential. She'll get bigger and stronger, and we'll go at a slow pace and let her develop her swing as she grows. There is unlimited potential with this young girl." Dennis Wells, East Union coach