The Sequoia Pathway Junior High girls’ golf team captured the Canyon Athletic Association Division I-II state championship Saturday, winning the title in the program’s inaugural season.
The Pumas won the 9-hole tournament by 21 strokes over American Leadership Academy Gilbert North.
Sequoia Pathway carded a team score of 228, with the low five of the team’s six scores counting toward the team total. Seven schools participated in the tournament, which was played at Cave Creek Golf Course in north Phoenix.
In addition to the team title, the Pumas had the first and second place finishers in the individual competition in the Lesperance sisters. Tiani, an 8th grader, was medalist, carding a 41, followed by her sister Nara, who is in 7th grade, at 45.
In fact, the SPA team was composed of three sets of sisters, with four of the players playing golf for the first time this year. In addition to the Lesperances, Amaya and Annette James, both in 8th grade, and Kennedi (7th grade) and Cadyn (8th) Chandler also played this season. Ironically, both sets of sisters shot identical scores in the state tournament.
With a team that had four girls playing competitive golf for the first time, coach Jonathan Lesperance focused on teaching them the game and being sure they enjoyed it before having them play in matches.
“There was a huge difference in the girls from the beginning of the season to the end,” said Lesperance, father of Tiani and Nara. “Just learning the game, and what a fairway is, and a bunker and the etiquette, they noticed how it’s not easy and it is not like other sports. Then as the time went on, they started understanding the game and really started to enjoy it more.”
One regular season match the entire team participated in featured some local color. Sequoia won what Lesperance deemed the “Battle of Maricopa” by defeating A+ Charter and Heritage Academy in a match at The Duke at Rancho El Dorado.
Lesperance said Tiani and Nara began playing in 2014, when family moved to Maricopa and he played golf for the first time.
“They played on and off for the first few years,” Lesperance said. “They would play a little, then stop playing and do other sports. But over the past couple of years, they have been playing consistently and their games have really improved.”
Lesperance, who said he is a scratch golfer and gives lessons at The Duke, also gained something from coaching the team.
“Just by helping them I was helping myself,” he said. “What I tell them, I try to apply to myself as well. I just try to simplify things and make the game easier and more fun.”
His approach worked. In addition to the team title, Lesperance was voted Junior High Girls’ Golf Coach of the Year.