Fear not, golf hackers. Your game may be a hot mess of slices, shanks and poor course management, but Diamond Bar senior Angelica Kusnowo is your guiding light out of the darkness.
She’s been there, done that and emerged from the wilderness better than ever. And she’s done it while putting a team on her back and carrying it to a third-place finish in the state tournament.
In fact, it’s that carrying act that made Kusnowo better than ever.
Kusnowo followed up a subpar junior year with a stellar senior season that included a third-place finish as an individual at the CIF State tournament, as she shot a 73 on the historic Poppy Hills course at Pebble Beach, and the Brahmas earned a third-place team finish. She also had a third-place individual finish at the CIF/SCGA Southern California Girls High School Championship with a 72 at Brookside Golf Club.
All of that combined to earn the St. John’s-bound Kusnowo the Sun/Bulletin Girls Golfer of the Year honor.
“Right away, even though golf is an individual sport, she was team-first every day she was here,” Diamond Bar coach Tony McCabe said. “We always preach that here. If you think that way, you’re going to do well. She just took hold of that and it served her well for four years.”
Kusnowo’s leadership abilities also served her well. McCabe took the rare step of making her a captain her junior year and initially, it may have been a rare reach for the longtime coach. The pressure of wanting to lead, wanting to excel and wanting to impress college coaches got to the usually unflappable Kusnowo, and her once-reliable game turned into a series of push-slices off the tee and poor course management everywhere else.
“I kept psyching myself out,” she said. “I read a couple articles and I think I had the yips. I lost confidence in my swing and after playing golf for eight years, I felt like a beginner again. It was hard on the rest of the team, seeing one of their leaders struggle.
“I started getting my swing glitches because I was playing a lot of tournaments outside of school every weekend and school tournaments during the week. Instead of working on my swing, I was playing with a swing I wasn’t confident in and I didn’t have the time to work on it. I knew what I was doing wrong, I just couldn’t fix it.”
The fix finally came when Kusnowo found a new swing coach and began working with mental coach Kate Hughes, who told her to visualize her shots, focus on one spot and take the hazards she was focusing on out of the picture. That, along with renewed work on her swing, got her game back on track.
Kusnowo’s stroke average fell three shots – from a 79 her junior year to a 76 and her game got better as the season progressed. She led the CIF/SCGA Tournament through 14 holes before an untimely double-bogey derailed her.
Still, her teammates fed off her presence, following Kusnowo’s advice about “making every shot count because it’s a team score” and Diamond Bar brought home more hardware.
“You need players like Angelica to keep a program like this going,” said McCabe about a player he calls, “the communicator.” “Her sophomore year, we didn’t make it to state. How did they respond? They came back tougher. How did she respond after a tough junior year? She came back with the best season of her career. We’ve had it going for years, but it’s players like Angelica who keep it going.
“She went through some tough things. You come into a program that is super successful and you have to help it keep working. She did that. What a great career she had. You can’t beat it.”