The sport of golf was never accused of being a young players game.  It takes experience and confidence to maintain a level of play.  The only way to achieve that level is to first fail, learn from the mistake, and then use that gained humility to improve.

A very young Long Beach State women’s golf team used that approach this season, and after stumbling out of the gates in the fall, the 49ers came back in 2013 and finished smarter and stronger in the spring season.

Over the weekend, Long Beach State picked up 11 strokes on the final day of the Big West Conference Women's Golf Championship at the San Luis Obispo Country Club and finished in second behind No. 17 UC Davis.  49er sophomore Chaewon Park tied a career best finish by tying for fifth place individually.  She was two strokes behind the leader on the back nine thanks to two birdies.

The 49ers were 12 strokes ahead of rival UC Irvine and finished second behind the Aggies for the third time in four years.

“Another close season,” said Long Beach State head coach Joey Cerulle.  His team finished No. 73 in the NCAA final poll, about 10 spots away from more post-season play.  “Our fall wasn’t good enough, but I think we’re one of the top 40 teams in the spring.”

Cerulle returns four of his top five golfers next season and planned this youth movement well before the season started.  His young 49ers struggled at the end of 2012, but when they came back for 2013, they kicked it off with a 10-shot win at their own Gold Rush Tournament in early February at the Yorba Linda Country Club.

“We won by a mile, and it was clear that it had clicked,” said Cerulle.  “I think they just needed to get used to collegiate golf, the different atmosphere.  They took the winter break, were able to digest what had happened, and came back focused.”

Freshman Shawnee Martinez led the way for the 49ers, finishing in second at 9-over 225 after a furious finish.

“I didn’t know what to expect (in the fall),” said Martinez, who got a late start because of injury.  “Once I found balance (with school) I found my rhythm on the course.” 

The underclassman had a great senior leader to look up to this season in Simone Hoey.  The Rancho Cucamonga native was first-team All-Big West as a freshman and sophomore and was recently named Big West Conference Women's Golfer of the Month for April after she captured her second career individual medalist honors at the Fresno State Lexus Classic and helped Long Beach State win its second tournament team title this season.

Next year will be the first time since 2004 that there won’t be a Hoey on the Long Beach State women’s golf roster.  Simone’s older sister, Kay, was one of the most successful female golfers in 49er history.  She won seven different tournaments in four years and reached the NCAA regional four years in a row.

“We take pride in this program,” said Simone about her and her sister helping the 49ers improve and win during the last eight seasons.  “I plan on coming back next season as a volunteer assistant coach.  They can’t get rid of me that easily.

Hoey said her final hole on Tuesday at the Big West Championships was, “bittersweet,” because, “I knew what it meant.”

She blasted her drive nearly 270 yards but ended up behind some trees.  A high lob shot landed pin high and she got it up and down for the career-ending par.

“I don’t have any regrets because I did everything I could and the program is better than before (me and my sister) got here,” added Hoey.  ““I love this program, and Long Beach, and all the opportunities I couldn’t get anywhere else.  I’m thankful for playing for great coaches and playing for a team with heart.”

Here is the full LBSU report from the final weekend of Big West play...

Long Beach State sophomore Chaewon Park tied a career best finish, tying for fifth place at the Big West Conference Women's Golf Champioship on Tuesday afternoon at the San Luis Obispo Country Club.

For the second straight day, Park was the top player for LBSU, leading the 49ers to place second for the third time in four years to close out the 2012-13 season.

Sixteenth-ranked UC Davis captured the conference team title for the fourth consecutive year as the Aggies won by 29 shots over the 49ers.

LBSU improved by 11 shots on the final day for a 301 to finish with a 54-hole score of 34-over par 910. The 49ers finished 12 strokes ahead of third-place UC Irvine (+46) and 30 shots ahead of UC Riverside (+64) in fourth. Cal State Fullerton placed fifth at 73-over.

Park posted two birdies for the day, both of them taking place on the front-nine, along with two bogeys. The Torrance native was even through the first nine holes.

As she made the turn to the back-nine, Park would come within two strokes of individual medalist Demi Runas of UC Davis as she would par holes 10 and 11. Park would then run into trouble on the next four holes as she would post four consecutive bogeys for a 4-over through 15 holes.

Coming down the last three holes of the championship in sixth, Park would par the 16th to tie for fifth with UC Irvine's Ronnie Valerio after bogeying the par-4 16th. After both players parred the 17th, Park going for birdie on the 18th, putted the ball from 20-feet out only to see it lipped out from the hole. Valerio missed a birdie shot from 45-feet to take sole possession of fifth. Both players ended up parring the last hole of the tournament to share fifth place honors.

Freshman Shawnee Martinez carded her best round of the championship with a even-73 to move up in the standings from 10th to tie for seventh with an 8-over 227. Martinez collected a total of three birdies and three bogeys for the round to record her second career top-10 finish.

Freshman Kassidy Teare rebounded from her second round score of 82 to improve by six shots for a 76, tying for 12th at 11-over 230. Teare recorded four birdies for the day to post her second career top-20 finish.

Junior Rochelle Chan turned in her best performance of the tournament with a 76 to place 16th for her second top-20 finish this season and fourth overall. Chan finished at 13-over 232.

Senior Simone Hoey closed out her 49er career with her best round of the championship, shooting a 76 for a 15-over 234 to tie for 17th. With the finish, Hoey grabbed her second top-20 of the year and fourth overall.

JJ Fiddler has been covering Southern California prep and college sports for nearly a decade. He has worked for multiple publications in the area, including the Orange County Register.

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