GUSHIKAWA, Okinawa – While Danny Contreras and Emma Conroy are picking up where they left off as reigning DODEA-Okinawa golf champions, the three DODEA-Korea teams are pretty much starting over.
That was the picture as the seasons in both districts got underway Wednesday, the third fall season for each district since golf began its comeback from the coronavirus pandemic in 2021. Korea’s season opened at Osan’s Lakes golf links and Okinawa’s at Taiyo Golf Course.
Under coach Jon Fick, Kubasaki might be sporting its best team since Okinawa was playing golf in the spring before the 2020s.
Contreras, a senior, won the island championship last season and is joined by returning sophomore Matt Burn, senior Brodie Romnek and freshman Asher Romnek on the boys side.
Senior Julizka Aguirre, a fourth-year Dragon, returns for the girls along with three-year Dragons Hopper Tuigamala and Katelyn Lininger.
“Any one of the top four (boys) can win” the island title, Fick said, adding that “Danny is probably the most consistent.”
Aguirre missed the island finals with an illness last year as then-Kadena freshman Conroy capture the title in a runaway.
“Julizka is certainly capable; she wants to do better,” Fick said. “It’s going to be tough to beat Emma, but if she keeps practicing her chipping and putting, she can get her.”
Kadena welcomes a former DODEA-Korea student to the fold as the new coach. Charley Smith is a science teacher who graduated from Seoul American in 2015 and golfed for Washington State after.
The Panthers welcome back junior Noah Williams, sophomore Noah Tio, junior Briggs Johnson and sophomore Xander Millstead on the boys side.
Smith said she has “big time” high hopes for the Panthers this season. “We know the areas where we need to grow, and we have players who support each other,” Smith said.
Two-time reigning champion Humphreys boys and Daegu girls teams will most definitely have new looks to them, starting with their coaches, Nicole Tyler now heads the Blackhawks and CeCe Irvin takes for the Warriors.
Daegu’s ranks are thin; only three high school players are on the varsity roster, senior Yeungyu Yang, skilled freshman Benjamin Martinez and beginner junior Lillian Klunder. Girls champion sisters Anna and Emily Hagar have transferred and are playing in Virginia.
Humphreys also lost its top two golfers, one to graduation, the other to transfer. The Blackhawks have 10 boys and five girls players in the varsity lineup along with four junior varsity.
“We decided to keep a high number of golfers to build the program and promote golf at Humphreys,” Tyler said.
Osan’s girls could challenge for the DODEA-Korea title, with returning senior Jazmyne Villagomez and junior Grace Pak and senior newcomer Claire Williams.
Noah Hoback, a junior, and his sophomore brother Gabriel return and Connor Hohrer, a senior is a newcomer to the Cougars.
There is no DODEA-Pacific Far East tournament for golf. Each district will hold five weeks of regular-season competitions along with district finals tournaments in mid-October.