Girls Golf: Eaglecrest's Griffin finding stride, defending champ Choi still looking for hers

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Playing in the group of No. 1s in the Centennial League used to intimidate Jamie Griffin.

Not anymore.

The Eaglecrest junior, already a two-time Class 5A state tournament qualifier, now actually feels like she belongs among the top golfers in a loaded league that’s arguably the best in Colorado.

Griffin felt right at home on April 12 at Aurora Hills Golf Course, laughing and going shot-for-shot with Cherry Creek’s Shinwoo Lee, Arapahoe’s Claudia Davis and Overland’s Seung Ha Choi — who were all top 10 finishers at last season’s state tournament.

“I love it so much now; the last two years I was always afraid, but as my game has gotten better, now I just love it,” Griffin said after shooting a 6-over par 78 at Aurora Hills, site of the 5A Metro East Regional and state tournament.

“They are a lot of fun and it really helps to play with people who are at your level or better,” she added.

In a league that is absolutely bursting with talent — with the defending individual state champion in Choi, the defending state team champion in Cherry Creek (featuring Lee, Callie Ringsby — who shot a 3-under 69 at Aurora Hills — Dani Urman and Mackenzie Cohen) plus runner-up Arapahoe (Davis, budding sophomore Hannah Wood, Katy Dyachkova and Holly Schaefer) — Griffin has found her place, as coach Ron Paolucci knew she would.

Griffin’s been in the top 10 of all three league tournaments and the 78 at Aurora Hills — which came without benefit of a birdie, despite improved putting — has her setting her sites on bigger goals.

“I’d like to make top 10 this year; I have to focus on regionals first, but I think I’m capable of that,” said Griffin, 28th at state as a freshman and 31st last season.

“It’s all about confidence and my mental game has gotten better by leaps and bounds, so I’m excited about that piece.”

While Griffin’s confidence is on the rise, Choi’s is clearly shaken.

Choi was as surprised as anybody last season when she rose above the field — which included her own teammate and 2010 state champion Somin Lee — at the Lone Tree Golf Club to win the 5A individual title. She still doesn’t carry belief in her game.

Without the drive or fierce work ethic of Lee, who used to spend hours putting after playing a whole round and had to be kicked out of driving ranges at closing time, Choi now just hopes to finish in the top 10 at the state meet.

“Over the winter, I couldn’t focus on golf; my goal is to make top 10 this year, that’s how much I can’t trust my game,” Choi said.

She didn’t like playing the Aurora Hills course much, but on pure talent ground her way to a 77. Choi believes the fate of her season lies with improving her short game.

Aurora’s other top golfer — Regis Jesuit senior Kathleen Kershisnik — is finding the form that should make her a contender for 4A medalist honors. She shot a 4-over 75 at the Glenmoor Invitational April 17, good enough to tie her for fifth in a tournament that included all the 5A biggies: Arapahoe, Cherry Creek and Highlands Ranch.

In EMAC play, Rangeview is leading Northglenn by seven strokes going into the second major tournament of the season on May 1 at Fitzsimons Golf Course. The Raiders are led by Danae Bushman, who is tied for third in the individual standings.

Reach Sports Editor Courtney Oakes at [email protected] or 303-750-7555