By the Numbers

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Alyssa Naritoku, who began playing golf in earnest just four years ago, finds herself and her team on the verge of a league championship. (Photos by Mikey Hirano Culross/Rafu Shimpo)

By MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS
Rafu Sports Editor

By all accounts, the future holds plenty of math and science for South Pasadena High School’s Alyssa Naritoku.

To that notion, the normally quiet and reserved senior piped, “Okay!”

It’s all about the numbers for Naritoku, a member of the South Pas girls’ golf team, who are unbeaten in Montview League play and are on the verge of a league title.

“I always looked up to seniors last year,” said Naritoku. “They were unbeatable, so being able to follow them into the CIF tournament is very special.”

South Pas edged previously unbeaten Westridge by five strokes on Wednesday, setting up a winner-takes-the-title showdown between the two schools on Thursday. Thunderstorm conditions, however, pushed that match to Tuesday.

Naritoku shot a 53 Wednesday against Westridge, enough to help her Tigers to a five-stroke win and at least a share of the league title.

Naritoku, lamented her performance on Wednesday, but still shot a very respectable 53 on the par-36 course at Brookside. South Pasadena coach Richard Goto said her average has been solidly in the 45 to 46 range, as she has made great improvements since first taking up golf as a freshman.

“She has become very efficient in terms of her drives and accuracy,” Goto said. “Like most people, she needs to work on her putting, but she’s doing very well.”

Naritoku explained that golf was always a part of her family’s activities, even though she played basketball for her church team and later for South Pas.

“My dad’s side of the family are real golf fanatics,” she said. “One of my cousins even went to college on a golf scholarship.”

When she was in elementary school it was common for Naritoku to accompany her father and grandfather to a driving range in Arcadia, where she would try her hand at hitting. As her participation became part of her regular schedule, she decided to attend a week-long golf camp.

“I was really interested when I saw there was an opportunity to play in high school,” she recalled. “At first, I wasn’t that committed, but as I got a little better, I began liking it more and more.”

She liked it to the point where some other obligations in her life had to be scrapped. With a load of schoolwork that included four advanced placement classes and playing flute in the school’s marching band, basketball was the activity to get the axe.

“It was too much of a time crunch,” she said. “With classes and band and golf, there was no time for something else.”

Her mother, Dawn, agreed, and so it was decided that golf would be the sport of choice.

Golf, however, demands a monetary commitment as well as time. It’s not the kind of game you play in the driveway after school. It requires lessons, expensive equipment and club memberships, all which add up in a hurry.

Naritoku’s average for the season has been in the 45-46 range.

“We’ve learned to take the deals,” Naritoku said with a laugh, explaining how Almansor – the home course for South Pas in Alhambra – offers deals for frequent players and the discounts extended to young golfers through the Southern California Golf Association.

Watching the budget isn’t much of a challenge for the numerically-minded Naritoku. A professed lover of math, she was tops at her school in calculus and gets a charge out of anything to do with physics. Two of her AP classes deal directly with math – environmental science and biology – and she hopes to attend USC, where her father, Wesley, is a professor of clinical pathology.

Goto described Naritoku, whose older brother also played golf at South Pas, as “one of those remarkable people who can take on many things and do them all well.”

“She’s one of our captains, and one of her jobs is to help keep the girls organized and focused,” he said. “As our lone senior, her help is a great benefit for us.”

Numerous studies have shown a beneficial relationship between music and mathematical thinking, so it only makes sense that Naritoku has excelled in a sport where the numbers hold such critical importance. She’s hoping to best her average and turn in a 41 when her team again faces Westridge on Tuesday, with the league championship on the line.

“I like the social aspects of the sport. We talk a lot with the other girls we’re playing, and in a way, it helps me relax and try to do the best I can,” she said.

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