The Cedar Hill girls golf team is proving that youth and inexperience can be conquered by quick learning.
The Lady Longhorns roster features a dozen players who had never played golf before joining the program, according to head coach Thomas Himert. In fact, most of them did not even own their own clubs, he said.
“Due to many generous donations, all of them have a complete set of clubs and bag,” Himert said.
Yet, they are enjoying success. What’s more impressive, the varsity program regularly features four or five players in tournament competition – and three of those are freshmen, Abigail Ruiz, Leah Armendariz and Giselle Khamuanthony.
“The success that all of these girls have been able to experience comes from a strong desire to improve. They only get to practice about four or five hours a week, but they all are willing to listen to different suggestions and try different ideas in order to succeed,” Himert said. “They are focused during every practice, whether it is on the course, at the driving range, at the practice facility we have, and even inside when the weather is bad.”
With district on the horizon, the Lady Longhorns have had much success this season. After the three freshmen got their first varsity experience with an eighth-place finish at Rockwall, the team has enjoyed a championship at the Arlington Tournament, fifth place in Grand Prairie, and a fourth- and fifth-place finish with two teams at the Midlothian Heritage Tournament.
The fourth-place team had two seniors, a junior and a freshman. The fifth-place team had two juniors and two freshmen.
District Tournament March 30-31
And, with the District 11-6A Tournament set for March 30-31 in Glen Rose, the team warmed up with a runner-up performance at Squaw Creek Golf Course in Willow Park.
“To be a freshman on varsity means opportunity. Given this opportunity to be a part of a more advanced division provides me with more experience and a challenge that will encourage me to excel and always persevere,” Ruiz said. “Winning our first tournament instilled a vast amount of courage and confidence in myself. This milestone motivates me to do better each time I am playing on the course. Given the short time crunch we had, we did our best and our dedication showed in our results.
“The relationships I have developed with the girls on my team can only be described as memorable. Golf has allowed me to connect and build very strong bonds with each and every girl on my team.”
Armendariz admitted being surprised at the first tournament win, one that she said greatly increased the confidence of herself and her teammates.
Learning One Stroke At A Time
“We were rushed at some points because some teams were going super fast, but we still managed to get first place. It was a great experience because I recently started playing golf this year, and wow, my first win,” she said.
When Himert arrived at Cedar Hill five years years ago, the Lady Longhorns had one player on the team. She qualified for regionals as an individual her senior year, but he began the building process.
“My program tries to have all players participate in at least one tournament each year. I consider all of my players to be on varsity,” he said. “I mix and match players based on abilities and the academic schedule that they have.”
Khamvanthong said she and her freshmen teammates are especially grateful for being given the chance to make their way onto the team.
“To be on the varsity team as a freshman is really an honor, especially since the other two freshman girls and I joined the team with no prior experience,” Khamvanthong said. “When we won our first tournament together it was unbelievable. It was us against kids who have had years of private lessons and country club memberships.
“The whole game we made jokes and had fun, something our coach emphasizes. In my opinion the reason that we won was because we focused less on the win and more on improving on our skills.
Supporting One Another
“On my first day all the upperclassmen went out of their way to give me pointers on my swing. This is what makes our team so close, we choose to support one another.”
Senior Victoria Jackson joined the team as a sophomore and is now one of those upperclassmen helping bring the younger players along by sharing what she has learned.
“I have learned that discipline is a big part of being on a varsity team. Golf requires me to stay focused and to be patient,” she said. “My teammates have a great dynamic, and I am blessed to be a part of the team. We owe it to our coach, whose faith in our team has been unwavering. The lessons I have learned from our coach and my teammates are invaluable and will stay with me for a lifetime.”
As was the case throughout the state – and nation – the team did not play any spring tournaments in 2020. And now, they return after just a few weeks of preparation with three freshmen having earned their way into the regular tournament rotation.
Looking Towards The Future
And why not play three freshmen, Himert asked?
“The only way that they will get better is to see what others are doing and to get an idea of what it takes to improve and compete,” he said. “As long as they try their best and have fun, I am happy regardless of where they finish. That is true of all the young ladies that are a part of the program.
“I am very excited about our future. This year we have a senior, Jewellena Hernandez, who was offered a college golf scholarship. We will have a total of three seniors graduating this year and all three are headed to college.
“We also have five juniors and one sophomore on this year’s team. I am looking for these three freshmen to start to take a large leadership role in the future. All three of them have the parental support to become very good players as well as excellent leaders at their school.”