High school golf is a team sport where five players’ scores matter equally, but it certainly helps when one of those is consistently low.

It’s been that way for the American Canyon girls this season. As long as Katie Robinson sticks around, it should be for the next three years as well.

The freshman, who nearly matched Sarah Chang’s Chardonnay Golf Club school-record score of 37 in her first two matches with a 39 and a 38, has led the Wolves to a 5-1 start in Solano County Athletic Conference play.

After shooting her 38 during a win over SCAC rival Benicia on Sept. 13, Robinson was asked if she came into the high school season targeting Chang’s record.

“I’ve got four years to catch up to it, so I’ve got no worries about not being able to get it,” she said.

It was a windy day, so who knows what she can do in normal conditions.

“I’ve seen a lot windier, especially out here,” she said. “The first couple of holes, the wind was taking over everything. But every time I would tee off it would be perfectly fine, and then the next person would tee off and the wind was just coming. It was hilarious. I just felt so bad.”

Although Benicia came in with two 39s, American Canyon didn’t have as much disparity across the board – with sophomore Keinah Baron carding a 53, senior Melita Poehleman a 56, and senior Maita Veneracion and sophomores Kaitlin Dang and Kandy Miller recording 60s.

Vanden dealt the Wolves their first loss Tuesday at Chardonnay, 262-265, avenging a 260-263 loss to American Canyon at Cypress Lakes two weeks before.

Robinson had a 41, Poehleman a 48, Baron a 53, Miller a 59, Veneracion a 64, and Dang a 69.

Robinson started playing golf about eight years ago but not competitively until 2014, the year Chang graduated. That was also the year she came under the tutelage of Tom Sims, when he was the head professional at Napa Golf Course, and she followed him when he took the same position at Silverado Resort and Spa. She joined Silverado when she began attending the Silverado Junior Academy.

“The pairing of Tom Sims with the academy was a huge turnaround in her game, and she wouldn’t be where she is at without that,” said her mother, Kathy Robinson. “She’s aged out for the junior academy, but when she is not in tournament play, she volunteers at the Silverado Junior Golf Academy and helps Tara Fox coach the younger golfers.”

Robinson has played Junior Golf Association of Northern California, Hurricane Junior Golf Tour and Junior Tour of Northern California tournaments.

At the JTNC’s Fall Series IV Championship Sept. 9-10 at Haggin Oaks Golf Complex in Sacramento, she shot 18-hole rounds of 74 the first day and a 79 the next day to finish second in the Girls’ First Flight Championship. That 74 meant she averaged 37 per nine, putting her right in Chang’s neighborhood.

But Robinson said she feels no pressure to carry the Wolves. She seems excited to be on a team for the first time, and to be a good teammate.

“It’s definitely a team effort, especially when there’s only six of us. We’re all leaning on each other to do well, so there’s no pressure if I don’t do well,” she said. “And the other girls don’t put any pressure on me at all.”

She said she’ll give pointers if teammates ask for them.

“Kandy is really fun to try and help out because she just laughs every time. She really makes it enjoyable because she just makes it so happy,” Robinson said. “If I could, I would help everyone out, but I’m not going to force it upon them. They have to ask.”

Poehleman, who got ready for her fourth season of American Canyon golf by playing in the Kids4Golf 707 summer league, enjoys partnering with Robinson in matches.

“Our coach (Jim Saylor) has been telling us for a couple of years that Katie was coming, and she’s great,” Poehleman said. “She brings this kind of mood that lifts everyone up.”

Added Veneracion, “She’s pretty good – I have a lot to learn from her.”

Poehleman wasn’t happy with her own windswept round on Sept. 13.

“My short game is a bit better, but I still need to improve on that,” she said. “My long game is off and on.”

But she seems motivated to be more consistent and help the Wolves win their first-ever SCAC title – or at least have fun trying.

“We just have to keep a positive mind,” she said. “Since we only have six players, I feel like we’re bonded more.”

Veneracion doesn’t mind having only six players, either.

“I like the small team because you get to really know everyone,” she said. “Hopefully we’ll win league, but we’ll do our best. I really just have to work on my short game. I think it’s OK, but from the medium-range distance I need to work on being more precise with my shots.”

The Wolves would love to give Saylor, the school’s only girls or boys golf head coach since it opened in 2010, his first conference crown.

“It’s good to have a coach who’s not only serious but knows when to be light-hearted and not push too hard,” she said. “He’s always encouraging, and it really helps a lot.”

Though she had the team’s second-best score on Sept. 6, Baron didn’t seem satisfied.

“Today was a little rough for me,” she said, “but I’m getting there.”

Meanwhile, Baron looks forward to playing with Robinson the rest of this season and for two more.

“She’s a great girl. We all love her. She’s very smart and she shows good sportsmanship. She also encourages us to do better,” Baron said. “She coaches us a little bit, gives us some tips on chipping and putting strokes, so that’s a good benefit for us. She showed me how to hit balls from the sand, so because of her I’ve come down a few strokes. But I’ve also been practicing hard, and our coach helps, too.”

Robinson’s advice to her teammates?

“Just keep doing what we’re doing,” she said. “We’re all playing really well right now.”


Andy Wilcox is a sportswriter-photographer for the Napa Valley Register. He's had similar roles in Walnut Creek, Grass Valley, Auburn, Tracy and Patterson. He grew up in Ohio. His wife, Laura, is a pastry chef. He also enjoys playing guitar and piano.