The Carpinteria High School girls golf team teed up a new era this past season under coach Reina Kearns. The former Oxnard High School and Long Beach State linkster answered the call of Ana Blair, mother to twin sisters and CHS golfers Amanda and Mikayla Blair, this fall when the team was desperate to find a coach.
Ana emailed River Ridge Golf Club in Oxnard, along with other area clubs, explaining that the Warriors were without a coach and the season had just begun, and Kearns, an assistant at the club, answered the call.
“The girls weren’t quite sure if they were going to have a team … it was a little rocky, but we figured it out,” said the coach who got the team on track and oversaw a 12-2 campaign.
With just six players (five being the minimum required to compete), the Warriors took off from the start. Tahis Alcantar, Iliana Esquivel, Lucy Light and Ariana Vega filled in the four slots not occupied by the Blairs, and the squad registered individual and team bests as they improved throughout the season.
The Warriors ended up beating perennial Tri-Valley League power house La Reina High School for the first time in the program’s history, then later in the year repeated the feat. Mikayla and Amanda were also named to the All-TVL Second Team, and Carpinteria’s only losses on the season came at the hands of Foothill Tech.
Former Warrior girls golf coach Steve Benzin’s penchant for recruiting softball players at the school, taking advantage of their athleticism on the course, allowed Kearns to inherit four seasoned athletes. Still, she focused early on tweaking their softball swing-influenced mechanics.
“It was nice having them have an athletic background, but it definitely does conflict a little bit,” said Kearns who also teaches individual clinics and group sessions at River Ridge. “In softball (the swing) is more horizontal, and golf is more vertical.” It was difficult getting the Blair twins, Esquivel and Light (the four softballers) to transition to golf strokes from softball swings; but when they did, it was a beautiful sight to see, she explained.
“There were a couple of tournaments where Iliana, she’s really strong … where she drove the green,” said Kearns of Esquivel’s prowess.
However, with only Light and Vega returning next season, Carpinteria could be hard-pressed to match this year’s success next fall. The ultra-positive coach who is currently serving an apprenticeship with PGA America to become a Class A professional, seems up for the challenge.
She hopes to get some help from the two underclassmen in recruiting their friends with a goal of fielding a squad with anywhere from six to nine members next year. “I want to try and do some clinics during the summer, maybe at Tee Time, and invite the girls that haven’t tried it, or have an interest in it,” said Kearns.