With Berkeley High School (BHS) sports such as water polo or soccer at the forefront of students’ minds, it is often easy to forget that there is a rich multitude of other sports at the school. Out of the 3,200 students at BHS, nine athletes make up the girls golf team that presides over the Tilden Park Golf Course during the fall season. Despite its small size, the BHS girls golf team has made big strides this past season, ending with a 6-7 record.
Ahmad Dilliehunt, head coach of the BHS golf team for the past six years, said that this past season has been one of the best for the girls team. “It was a really good season, one of my favorite seasons so far,” Dilliehunt said. The team almost made it to the North Coast Section (NCS) golf playoffs for the first time in decades. For a small golf team that is virtually unknown to the rest of the student body, this is no small feat.
Dilliehunt learned how to play golf from his father, who was a professional golfer. He went on to play golf for BHS’s rival in golf, El Cerrito High School. “I never would have seen myself coaching for [BHS],” he joked.
When Dilliehunt started coaching at BHS, the team had four players and no previous coach. His first year, the team didn’t win any matches. “We were really starting from the bottom,” Dilliehunt admitted. However, the team has slowly increased its wins over the years. “We’ve been steadily building and becoming more of a part of [BHS] culture,” said Dilliehunt.
Dilliehunt attributes the team’s recent success to the attitude of his golfers. “Everyone was one hundred percent committed … I believe we gave it our best shot,” he said. While golf is an individual sport, the team aspect is very important to winning tournaments, since individual scores are combined to determine results. Practices are dedicated to building individual skill while matches bring the team together.
Abigail Kaneko, a senior in Academic Choice (AC) and a player on the girls golf team, explained that the small size of the team has formed a tight bond between its members. “We were all very supportive of each other and became friends,” said Kaneko. The girls team met every Monday through Thursday at the Tilden Park Golf Course this fall and participated in matches a couple of times each week. The boys team will have its season in the spring.
Kaneko, along with most of the girls on the team, didn’t know how to play golf when she joined, but she said that Dilliehunt was very supportive and taught her everything she knows now. “He definitely brought competitiveness, and he always wanted us to have fun,” said Kaneko.
The existence of this BHS team is great for female students, since girls aren’t often encouraged to play golf as much as boys. By being a part of the team, BHS’s golfers get to play in courses across the Bay Area for free.
“I think that most of my girls will continue to play golf, and it will help them in life, in business, in meeting people,” said Dilliehunt. “Golf has been a big part of my life, so whatever wisdom I can impart on my students … that’s what I’m here for.”
In terms of the next season, Dilliehunt said his goal is to continue to expand the BHS golf team and help players make it to the NCS playoffs.