Panich Captures College’s 1st State Golf Title

Derek Stowe

Glendale sophomore Tammy Panich became the first in school history – man or woman – to capture a state golf title by winning the 2010 state individual golf championship at Los Serranos Country Club in Chino Hills on Nov. 15 and 16.

Panich and Kayla Riede of Sacramento City College were tied for first with 150 after the two-day, 36-hole tournament. In a card-off to determine the winner, judges added up their scores on the back nine holes of the final day, and Panich carded a 36 compared to Riede’s 38.

This California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) event, which is designed to encourage sportsmanship, desire and discipline at a high level of competition, rewarded the best six individuals and three teams out of the state’s 39 qualifying women golfers. Hosted by Saddleback College of Mission Viejo it marked the end of the women’s golf season.

For the competition under sunny skies, there were 15 players from Glendale, Mt. San Jacinto, Bakersfield, Mt. San Antonio, Desert, Santa Barbara City, Butte, Sierra, Reedley, Fresno City, Folsom Lake, and Cañada College; and four six-woman teams from Irvine Valley, College of the Canyons, Modesto and Sacramento City College.

No one could out-do Panich.

“One girl from Irvine last week shot a 69, but this week a 78,” said Todd Panich during the event hoping to see his daughter Tammy clinch the state final. He followed her every shot and had to whisper so as not to distract her from her game.

The Los Serranos Country Club’s north course is of professional circuit quality and has many tricky elements. “Down hill is so difficult,” said Todd watching one of Tammy’s competitors lose control of her putt down a sloping green. “You can’t stop it. It’s a nightmare sometimes – [the ball just] keeps rolling.”

After making GCC history by taking home a conference crown with four birdies at the Western State Conference championship in Ojai on Nov. 1, Panich qualified for the state finals at the Southern California regional at the Alisal River Golf Course in Solvang on Nov. 8, by coming in second.

Dana Miller, spectator and mother of Bakersfield’s golfer Malea Miller, said, “The course is a par 74 but has so many bunkers. They’ve got to be right on with their shots – trust themselves.”

“It looks like the Grand Canyon,” said Miller about the bunker at the 16th hole where her daughter got stuck the first day and took four shots to get out. “You just feel so sorry for them.”

Later on, Malea, whose combined total was 161, said it wasn’t until day two on the 15th hole that she finally started to get a read for the green.
A friend of Panich’s as well as her course rival, Malea said, “It was a good experience playing with Tammy. She’s a nice girl and fun to play with. I’m going to miss her. Greg [Osbourne] is a very good coach, [too]. He’d be fun to have.”

“Tammy was right on,” said Dana about Panich’s performance the first day. “She was right down the middle.over the trees and always right onto the middle of the fairway. I think she has a really good chance to win today.”

Coach Osbourne was allowed to advise Panich and others as long as they weren’t on the green or in the hazards including bunkers. All the golfers know Osbourne and welcome his interpretation of the terrain. “He really knows the game,” said Dana.

The CCCAA committee determined that, unlike NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Division I where coaches are allowed to communicate with the players, at community college competitions coaches are not permitted to speak to their players in order to speed up play. But state championship players are assumed to be advanced enough to keep pace even while listening to directives from their coach.

“The only credit I deserve is [for the fact] that I’m still standing,” said Osbourne modestly. “If [Panich] can win this, she’s going to get a full scholarship to another college, which is great. [She should] reap the rewards.”

The 3rd hole was a par five and one of the most challenging for Panich, who bogeyed the hole in six shots. She hit a very good drive of nearly 230 yards. Her second shot was with a three-wood, which went about 200 yards. Then, for the final 100 yards up the hill, Osbourne advised her to use a 9-iron, or a spoon, which looks like a driver but has a wedge-like angle of 45 degrees. She thought she hit it pretty well, but it hit the lip of the green and fell back into the bunker. She didn’t expect that.

She got out of the bunker with her skillful wedge play landing the ball some 5 feet from the hole. And then, she just missed her par-putt, so she ended up with a bogey.

“I just had to forget about it,” said Panich later on. “I can’t be thinking about it, so I just moved on.” She parred the next hole, which was a good comeback from a bogey.

Panich had bad luck on the 5th hole. “I hit my drive into the left bunker and [the ball] ended up leaning against a piece of wood.” It was a stick about 1 foot long that seemed like it could have been an exposed tree root. She had to wait for a rule official for instructions. She ended up dropping a new ball a club’s distance from the bunker and playing both balls up into the hole to see which one came out best – they both came out the same – a five-shot bogey.

On the back nine, Panich shot a birdie on the 10th hole. It was a short hole of only 125 yards with a bunker and a pond guarding the green. With a keen sense of distance, Panich lofted the ball with her 8-iron to within 4 1/2 feet of the flag. Then with her pink-handled putter she polished off the hole.

“That’s the putt that went in,” she said laughing off her numerous missed opportunities where 5, 8 or 12-foot putts came very close, but were either too short or ended up just to the left or right of the cup. Nonetheless, Panich was able to focus on the immediate hole instead of dwelling on missed birdie attempts.

The 13th hole was her most memorable. It was a 440-yard, downhill par five with a dogleg right. Panich cut the corner and drove the ball down the fairway to nearly 150 yards from the green. She shot the ball onto the green in two and putted it in. It was one of her week’s rare birdies.

Reflecting back on her final turn at the 18th hole, Panich said, “Bad luck again – my ball in the bunker was not in a very good lie. But I got up on the green, and I was really confident even though my putting had not been good the whole day.
I was sure I was going to make the putt, so I just walked up to it and hit it. I thought it was going in because of the feeling I had, and it was going the way I wanted it to go. And then it went in the hole but lipped out. I hit it a little too hard. But if you hit it too softly, its [straight] line might change.”
Bad luck or not, it didn’t matter. It was a done deal.

In the two-day, two-round match up, the top four players shot even par 74 on the second day. After Panich (150) and Riede (150) were Tina Yang of Mt. San Jacinto (152) third, Krista Fenniak of Desert (155) fourth, Nicole Rivera of Irvine Valley (155) fifth and Arica Rodriguez of Mt. San Antonio (156) sixth.

Riede, who stared at the final score postings with tears in her eyes, had also been last year’s runner up with a 36-hole total of 155.

Irvine Valley College (650) took home its first team trophy. College of the Canyons (654) came in second, and Sacramento City (661) took third. For all those who competed or observed, the 2010 Women’s Golf State Championships undoubtedly left a lifelong impression.

Panich showed she could keep her cool even under intense pressure. After three days of hauling her clubs the length of the Los Serranos’ north course including a Sunday practice round, Panich said her feet were sore but that it was all worth it. She was pretty excited.

“What a surprise!” said Panich, who thought she was sure to lose after missing so many makeable putts. Until the state finals, Panich hadn’t considered her short game to be a problem, so she focused mainly on her long game. “My putting has always been there,” she said. But with a fast course and butterflies in her stomach, her putting was definitely off its mark.

Athletics division chair Jon Gold said, “This is huge -especially since there was so much holding back on the [women’s golf] program by the board [of trustees]. Nobody wanted to fund it until some alumni were going to provide everything. Then Greg stepped up and had a sleepless summer putting this together, getting Tammy and trying to find kids. [Panich] probably would have run away with this one if she had been hitting on.”

“This solidified our program,” said Coach Osbourne. “[From now on,] we’re going to have solid gold every time.”

With a brand new gold medallion on a red ribbon, Panich said, “winning state has showed me that I can accomplish everything I want as long as I work hard and believe in myself. I am one step closer to reaching my goal, which is to play on tour.”