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Girls golf dropped for lack of interest
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Ceres High will not be fielding a girls golf team this year.

"This is the first time in our history where we haven't fielded a sport at any level," said Phil de la Porte, Ceres High athletic director. "It's disappointing."

De la Porte had no choice thanks in part to eligibility problems and a lack of interest.

"We didn't have enough girls to play," said Ceres coach Butch Mendonca. "I thought I had four girls coming back. Two were ineligible, one didn't want to play anymore and another was interested in coming back."

De la Porte and Mendonca tried to assemble a team during the first week of school. In an effort to spark interest, they advertised through the school's public address system but there was no response. Ceres needed at least five players to field a team.

"We had it in there for three days and there was no takers," Mendonca said.

Mendonca was named head coach of the girls golf team in 2001. He has had trouble fielding a team each year.

"Basically, we've been going out and getting girls who really don't have an interest in playing," Mendonca said. "By fielding people who aren't interested in the game, it's not competitive. It's really not a varsity sport."

The Bulldogs compiled a 7-47 record under Mendonca's guidance. The Bulldogs went 1-17 in the Central California Conference last season and 3-15 in 2002 and 2001.

Rob Phipps, River Oaks golf professional, found out Ceres wouldn't be fielding a team this year when he tried to set up a practice schedule for the Bulldogs. De la Porte passed on the disappointing news via telephone.

"It surprises the heck out of me," Phipps said. "Everyone else has a team."

Other high schools practice at Ceres' River Oaks golf course.

"We've got Livingston, Hilmar, Hughson and Patterson out here," Phipps said.

River Oaks has also been offering a junior golf program in the summer for boys and girls, aged 7-17, since 1994. About 265 youth participated this year, including just 20 girls.

"The youth program at River Oaks is really good but they (girls) don't seem to take advantage of it like the boys have," de la Porte said.

The Ceres High boys golf team claimed the CCC title with an 18-0 record in 2002. Every player, including Ryan Thornberry, Kip MacArthur, Carlos Maldonado, Ben Martinez, Jack Richardson, Nick Wilcox, Jeff Warn and Chad Jantz, benefited from practicing and playing at River Oaks.

Thornberry took lessons and participated in the junior golf program for nine years. He won the Central California Conference Most Valuable Player award three times in high school and earned first-team, All-America honors while playing for the Stanislaus State men's golf team this past season.

"We're never going to be successful until we get girls started at a young age," Mendonca said. "That way, by the time they start high school, the fundamentals and the interest will be there."

Most of Ceres High's female athletes play volleyball in the fall, basketball in the winter and softball in the spring.

"Girls basketball and softball have been our biggest sports for 30 years," de la Porte said.

Added Mendonca: "It's more popular in school to be a softball, basketball or volleyball player."

Will Ceres High field a girls golf team during the 2005-2006 school year? "That's our goal," de la Porte said. "We're going to keep advertising. Hopefully, some kids will get interested and play during the summer." - By DALE BUTLER / Staff Reporter of The Ceres (Calif.) Courier