A scholar of golf: Grace Freitas chases the perfect golf game

Grace Freitas finishes the season after qualifying for the CIF Central Section Golf Tournament and playing in San Luis Obispo

SAN LUIS OBISPO, CALIF. – Mission Oak sophomore Grace Freitas made her way to the Central Section Girls Golf Sectionals after winning the West Yosemite League Championship and placing fourth in Valley.

Freitas teed off from the thirteenth hole at the San Luis Obispo Country Club during a shotgun start with two other players from different schools. The weather was sunny with minimal clouds and no breeze. The conditions seemed incredibly favorable for Freitas, but the course proved to be difficult.

Freitas ended up shooting 106 and not moving on to regionals, but it was an amazing accomplishment to make it as far as she did. She is the only golfer on the Mission Oak team to qualify for sectionals, which she did not qualify for as a freshman.

“This year is better than last year,” Freitas said. “As amazing as it was to win [league], it kind of ended on a bittersweet note not going any further. More opportunities for me came out of it this year. I find that playing with better people makes me play better.”

According to her coach Bill Harbour, the course was a par four course and had more hills than any course in the Central Valley. Being a par four course means for a master golfer it would take four strokes to make it in the cup, but for the girls at this level it could sometimes take them four strokes just to get on the green.

Harbour said Freitas is an excellent putter and she made sure to make it a focus of practice a few days before the tournament. But unfortunately the greens proved to be even more of a struggle for Freitas as Harbour said they were “really fast.” Fast greens have low friction, so if the angle isn’t right and the ball misses the cup, it will roll further away from the hole on the other side. 

Mission Oak moved from the East Yosemite League with Monache and Porterville high schools to the West Yosemite League, so Freitas competed against the other two Tulare high schools along with Hanford, Dinuba and Lemoore. She says the competition is better in the WYL, which has allowed her to push herself more.

Her favorite memory this season came from the league competition, when she reached the final hole. She was tied with another golfer she’d been in competition with all season.

“As we played out I didn’t know what she shot,” Freitas said. “When she told me her score, I knew that I was able to get ahead of her. So I was just very happy.”

Freitas came in fourth at the area tournament on Oct. 24. In order to qualify for the sectional tournament, she needed to be in the top 25 of players that shot 90 or better. She shot 84.

As a sophomore, Freitas has two more chances to progress and move up in the Central Section. She’s been playing golf since she was six years old. Her father and grandfather both golf and her family even runs a non-profit in honor of a family member that passed away that includes a dinner and a golf tournament.

“When she was little she always hung around with us and helped us set up and pack bags,” David Freitas, Grace’s dad, said. “Then she decided she wanted to golf and started to golf at that event.”

Freitas played competitive soccer growing up, but decided to pivot her attention to golf when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Golfing followed social distancing rules and Freitas and her dad were able to continue golfing throughout the lockdown.

“I like its simplicity,” Fretas said. “It is for sure a mental game which is why I enjoy it so much. I like mind games. I like tricks. It’s more fulfilling to my mind than maybe a more physical sport because every shot is a different challenge.”

An interesting aspect of Freitas’ golf swing is that she’s left-handed. According to her coach, this gives her a stronger swing. Harbour said for golfers, the hand that is on the front of the club is called the lead hand and it is their non-dominant hand. In golf, the lead hand actually does most of the work.

“Grace is naturally a left-hander but we do so many things in the world with our right hand that her right hand is really strong,” Harbour said.

In a society built for right-handed people, the 10% of the population that is left-handed ends up strengthening their non-dominant hand simply because many tools and aspects of society are not made for them. For example, scissors are generally made for right-handed people and finding left-handed scissors is nearly impossible.

Despite the natural left-handed advantage, Freitas works incredibly hard at improving her golf game. Even though her parents’ rule is that she puts school first, making good grades has never been an issue, so she’s able to spend her afternoons on the golf course. On school days, she practices two hours and then comes out on the weekends to play with her dad.

“She plays in junior tournaments throughout the year,” Harbour said. “She comes out every other day on B days during eighth period golf, and she’ll keep her game solid by practicing full clubs, wedges and putts.”

According to her father, David Freitas, she not only keeps her scorecard while playing, she tracks her own statistics, such as how many putts she had or how many strokes it took her to approach the green. That way she knows exactly what to work on the next day at practice.

“She’s a great scholar at school,” David Freitas said. “And she’s taking that same approach, a very intellectual approach [to golf].”

Outside of school, Freitas is heavily involved in the Associated Student Body or ASB. She helps set up pep rallies and participates in the spirit squad at football games. They are also generally involved in leadership around campus.

Tulare has a large Portuguese population, including the Freitas family, who are active in their fraternal hall. This year Freitas was nominated for Senior Queen and traveled to different Portuguese fraternal hall events over the summer with her family representing Tulare. 

Freitas isn’t just an athlete, but a student of golf. It’s easy for her to get excellent grades in school but golf is the thing that allows her to stretch her mind because nobody can ever be perfect at golf. So while she can have a 100 average in a class and be considered perfect, there is no perfect grade in golf. There’s only shooting to be better than yesterday.

For Freitas, the next goal will be to reach the next round during the next golf season. In the meantime, she’ll be out working at the Tulare Golf Course and will come back next season better than ever.

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