There is so much that Darla May Dela Torre remembers from playing in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship, a national event at Maridoe Golf Club in Carrollton, Texas in late April.
It was seeing her name next to her spot on the driving range.
It was hearing her name announced by the starter before each round.
It was having her father, Don Dela Torre, on the bag, serving as her caddie for two practice rounds and then 36 holes of stroke-play qualifying.
It was playing with her partner, Varsha Ramachandran, of San Jose.
It was the warm welcome she received from U.S. Golf Association staff upon her arrival at the club.
It was taking a close look at some of the other players in the field – those who are older and more experienced, those who are in college, those who have been in the game a long time.
It was also competing – taking on the par-72, 6,216-yard course that presents a stern test, according to a report on the U.S. Golf Association website, www.usga.org.
“There aren’t a lot of short-tee options and it’s a second-shot golf course. (There are) a lot of long approaches due to (required) lay-ups off the tee. (The) elevated greens are severely undulated,” Rachel Sadowski, the USGA’s championship director for the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball, said in the report.
“There are plenty of penalty areas and lots of water to negotiate. It’s Texas, so the winds can pick up and the course is relatively unprotected. It’s an intimidating golf course visually.”
All in all, it was a very positive experience for Darla May Dela Torre, a Fairfield resident, who plays out of Paradise Valley Golf Course and is a freshman at Rodriguez High School in Cordelia.
“I would say it opened lots of doors for me — gaining my confidence,” Dela Torre, 14, said looking back on playing in her first USGA national championship event. “It’s good to see where I’m at as a player. It’s a great way to just get there and get recognized by people.
“My partner and I fell short on a couple of shots, with some missed putts. But I would say I was able to compete.”
Dela Torre and Ramachandran, who are also 14, missed the cut after rounds of 75 and 75 for a 150 total in the stroke-play qualifying. Only the top 32 teams advanced.
There were 64 teams, with a field of 128 players. Dela Torre and Ramachandran, who qualified last November at Green Valley Country Club in Fairfield, were one of the youngest teams.
“My partner and I were able to bounce off of each other, giving each other some advice, and things like that,” said Dela Torre. “Seeing the players out there and seeing their swings, and how they also play, it’s pretty exciting. I also got to see the trophy, which was exciting.”
It was also exciting for Don Dela Torre to see his daughter play in one of the biggest events of her career so far. It’s one of 16 national championships that the USGA puts on each year.
“She said that she enjoyed having me carry her bag so that she can concentrate on just playing throughout the course of the tournament,” said Don Dela Torre, who introduced Darla to the game at a young age at Paradise Valley. “She was able to finish strong.
“It was really eye-opening in a lot of ways, where we can kind of gauge as far as where she’s at, at this moment. Going there, we didn’t expect to win or anything. But I think it gave her a lot of confidence during the first round and when we were in the mix.”
Don Dela Torre said he and Darla experienced the nerves and emotions that come with playing in a national event for the first time.
“It was the first time for us, so it was nerve-racking in a lot of ways. But once we got through the first tee, it appeared, we can do this. It’s one of those where, when you hit a good shot, it’s finding out you gain confidence. I was like, ‘I think we can do this.’ That pretty much carried us for the tournament,” said Don Dela Torre.
Starting out in the game
Darla May Dela Torre began playing golf at 4 years old, as her father introduced her to the game, helping her out with her stance, grip, posture, and swing.
She began playing competitive junior tournament golf when she was 7.
“She has gained a lot of confidence because of the tournaments that we have been to,” said Don Dela Torre. “As soon as she gets in there and hits with the older girls, she’s able to compete, and that’s when she thrives and flourishes.”
Off to a super start in high school golf
Darla May Dela Torre is enjoying her freshman season of high school golf for Rodriguez, a member of the Monticello Empire League and Sac-Joaquin Section.
She shot a 5-under-par 31, a personal low for nine holes, in a dual match against Vacaville at Paradise Valley. She had five birdies and four pars during her round.
She had a 2-under-par 34 for nine holes in a dual match against Armijo at Rancho Solano Golf Course.
Dela Torre carded a 37 in a dual match against Fairfield at Rancho Solano Golf Course.
“It’s all up to her, what she wants to do. She can take the game wherever she wants,” said Tim Berg, a PGA golf professional, who works with Dela Torre at the Bing Maloney Golf Complex in Sacramento. “She’s very talented. She works hard. She’s got a good work ethic. A lot of support from her family.
“I think it’s up to her and I’m willing to guide her as far as she wants to take it.”
Dela Torre gained additional experience by playing in a U.S. Women’s Open Championship Sectional Qualifying event on May 3 at Marin Country Club in Novato. She did not qualify after shooting 76-75 – 151 in the one-day, 36-hole event.
“She’s getting a lot of good experience on an international and national level,” said Berg, a teaching pro. “She’s a joy to work with for sure. It’s nice to have somebody that really takes an interest in the game, that does what you ask, and is a very positive person.
“We’ll just work a little bit more on speed and try to get her to hit it even farther.”
Dela Torre is as focused and disciplined about her academics as she is about golf. She is in an early college program at Rodriguez and gets out to play or practice every day.
“I’ve been working hard,” she said.
Dela Torre meets with Berg a couple of times each month. Berg has been working with Dela Torre for the last six years.
“What’s really nice is that she has a very nice rhythm and tempo,” said Berg. “She gets a lot out of her swing. She can hit the ball quite a ways.
“What I try to do with all my students is that I want to make sure they have the basic fundamentals. She took to them very easily. So nowadays, we work just on maintenance things.”
Berg has worked as the Director of Instruction at the Haggin Oaks Golf Complex, Director of Instruction at Cherry Island Golf Course, general manager at The Lincoln Hills Club, and has served as the golf manager for Pebble Beach Golf Company courses, Sunriver Resort courses, Blue Rock Springs Golf Course in Vallejo, and the City of Portland, Oregon.
Berg has played in both PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions events. Berg, the 1988 Pacific Northwest Senior Player of the Year, was named to the Pacific Northwest PGA Hall of Fame. He has twice won the Pacific Northwest Open and Pacific Northwest Senior Open.
Playing competitive junior golf schedule
Darla May Dela Torre is a member of First Tee – Greater Sacramento and in March won a First Tee junior tournament, shooting 73 in the girls 12-14 division at Alta Sierra Country Club in Grass Valley.
She also plays in Junior Golf Association of Northern California, Junior Tour of Northern California, U.S. Kids Golf, and Notah Begay III Jr. Golf National Championship Series events. Also in March, Dela Torre won the girls 14-15 division of the Corica Park Junior Championship in Alameda. She shot 74-72 – 146 on the South Course. In April, she finished in a tie for 18th in the JTNC’s Spring Series III at Paradise Valley and Rancho Solano in Fairfield. Playing in the girl’s championship division, she shot 78-74 – 152.
She finished fourth, shooting an 81 on the North Course at Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa, in the girls 14-18 division of the Notah Begay III Jr. Golf National Championship Series’ Napa Local Qualifier in May.
Last year, she had wins at:
* JGANC, Folds of Honor, 79-75 – 154.
* First Tee – Greater Sacramento, Auburn Valley Golf Club, 78.
* U.S. Kids Golf, State Championship, Micke Grove Golf Links, Lodi, 70-70 – 140.
* First Tee – Greater Sacramento, Bill Dougherty Memorial, Yolo Fliers Club, Woodland, 69.
She was the First Tee – Greater Sacramento overall girls champion in 2019.
Recipient of Morton Golf Grant
Darla May Dela Torre has been the recipient of a Morton Golf Foundation Junior Golf Development Grant since the age of 9.
According to its website, mortongolffoundation.org: “… The Morton Golf Foundation is helping better the lives of several kids programs, disabled programs, and hundreds of underserved individuals each and every year.”
A Morton Golf Foundation Junior Golf Development Grant provides “financial support for families to help their children learn to compete, develop skills, enhance core values and build lasting relationships through the game of golf,” according to mortongolffoundation.org.
Youths must be 18 years old or younger and not having entered college to be eligible. Grants are based upon individual needs and are used to cover tournament registration fees, transportation to and from tournaments, lodging and meal costs for travel tournaments, golf equipment, and golf lessons, according to mortongolffoundation.org.
Darla May Dela Torre is very thankful and appreciative for all the support and assistance she receives from Morton Golf Foundation.
“I’m really grateful. They’re just always there for me, always on my team,” she said.
Don Dela Torre said: “Morton Golf has helped us a lot. It’s given us a lot of opportunities. Morton Golf gave us a chance to go out there and prove ourselves.”
* Marty James is a freelance writer who makes his home in Napa. He retired on June 4, 2019, after spending 40 years as a sports writer, sports editor, and executive sports editor for the Napa Valley Register, a daily newspaper in Napa County. He is a 1979 graduate of Sacramento State and a member of the California Golf Writers & Broadcasters Association. He was inducted into the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame in 2016.