Now, after Shadow Lakes’ corporate office in Southern California decided to start charging the school $20,000 per year for the privilege of playing its course, Freedom’s golfers have been forced to acclimate to their new home course on Bethel Island, which is smaller, flatter, less green and surrounded by cow pasture rather than McMansions.
“You don’t have to worry about breaking any windows,” joked Boden.
Instead the focus is on breaking par, which will be a challenge until the players get more familiar with their new digs. Freedom’s girls team lost to an excellent Deer Valley squad 221-248 last week on a 100-degree day with little shade for relief. Fortunately, the mother of one of the Freedom players followed along in a cart with water and refreshments for players on both teams.
Other than the soft whirr of the electric carts and occasional mooing of a cow, it’s quiet on the Bethel Island course. Golf is by far the quietest high school sport and perhaps the most sportsmanlike. Players (at least the girl players) regularly compliment a good shot made by an opponent. Six players from each school compete, paired in three foursomes, with usually the two best players from each team in the first foursome.
As the first two groups played the 150-yard par three third hole, Boden talked about what it’s been like to make the transition to the rural course after the comparatively posh Shadow Lakes, where they were ensconced due to one of the owners also being the father of one of the Freedom players.
“I have nothing but nice things to say about Shadow Lakes staff,” he said. “I developed a really close working relationship with them. They catered to just about every need we had in golf. But their corporate office made some decisions and changed some of their policies. It had a negative effect on us in the sense that we had to leave. Knowing your course is a lot of the game. A tough home course can be a huge advantage against some schools.
“I feel quite blessed that Bethel Island stepped up and offered the course and is hosting. We are trying to work out the kinks in terms of communication with golf staff. They are very open with letting me run my golf program out here, which is nice.”
While Shadow Lakes is a much more difficult course, Bethel Island has its own challenges. For example, the greens are a lot harder, so it’s more difficult to get an approach shot to stick on the green.
On the third hole the girls were attempting to land their balls a few yards in front of the green and run them up on the putting surface. But Maddison LeRoy’s tee shot landed on the cart path on the right side of the fairway, forcing her to take a drop. She dumped her next shot into the bunker, then came out too hard, landing on the other side of the green far past the hole.
“It’s a completely different style of golf course,” said Boden. “At Shadow Lakes the greens were very, very large. The greens are much like the fairways here. Getting a ball to land and stick out here is difficult. Basically it’s learning to play your home course. There’s no (home) advantage. We are learning just like our opponents are.”
Freedom’s team does, however, have one big advantage this year: the return of three qualifiers in last year’s NCS playoffs: LeRoy, Ysabel Cabreira and Miranda Herman. Cabreira finished first for Freedom with a 42 on the first nine holes, which is all that they play, coming in second overall. LeRoy finished with 47.
The loss dropped Freedom to 2-1 on the season while Deer Valley remained undefeated at 3-0.