By ARMANDO GARZA
Special to the NEWS
For Emma Valle, the past year has been all about becoming a better golfer.
Already a regional qualifier last year as a freshman, Valle said she had to focus on her game to get where she wanted to be in her sophomore season.
And if her latest accomplishment is any indication, it appears she’s well on her way.
Valle fired an 83 at the 31-5A district tournament earlier this week to take top individual girls honors and advance to her second straight Region-IV Class 5A tourney. She’s the only golfer from San Benito advancing to regionals.
“Honestly, I was just happy with my score that day,” Valle said. “It was my second lowest round ever and my lowest round in a tournament, so when I realized I had won I was ecstatic! It just seemed surreal, it still does. I can’t stop thinking about it.”
The 31-5A tourney was held at Tierra Santa Golf Club in Weslaco, a course Valle was familiar with.
“I’ve played Tierra Santa about four times before district, so I knew the course pretty well,” she said. “I just tried to keep the ball in the middle of the fairway and give myself opportunities to score. It was windy, but I just tried to play each shot to work with the wind.”
This year’s Region-IV 5A girls event will be held at the Brackenridge Park Golf Course in San Antonio from April 17-18. Last year, Valle was a wide-eyed freshman playing among the region’s elite golfers. Now one of them herself, Valle is better prepared for the rigors of a regional tourney.
“At regionals this time around I’m just going to try and play to the best of my ability,” she said. “If I hit a bad shot I’m just going to let it go and focus my thoughts on what I need to do to get the ball back in play. I’m going to try and play a smart, focused game.”
Indeed, while the mental part of the game is always most important, being a regular at the golf course is also crucial to success. Valle spends “about 15 hours” per week practicing her game with her father and brother. She’s also a student of local pro Joe Cardenas at Treasure Hills Golf Club. Both moves already appear to be paying huge dividends.
“Last year I didn’t take the game too seriously, but I really started focusing this past summer,” I began to take lessons from Joe Cardenas and he has truly helped me improve every aspect of my game. My goal this year was to improve my game, and I believe I did just that.”
While overjoyed with winning at district and moving on to regionals, Valle said she would have been happy to be joined by some of her Greyhound Golf teammates.
“It’s a bittersweet feeling,” she said. “I’m happy that I made it, but knowing that our guys were so close is always hard. The competition was really tough, but their time will come.”
Should Valle advance, the state golf tournament is set for April 29-30 at the Morris Williams Golf Course in Austin.