Just moments before being presented the trophy, 15-year-old San Jose resident Kiara Romero took a few minutes to savor the moment with her mom and dad, Maricel and Rick, and her older sister, Kaleiya.
“It means so much to me to have my family here,” Romero said. “It makes it that much more fun and exciting.”
Still just a high school sophomore, Romero gave them all something to remember, as she’d go on to defeat Anika Varma
, 3 and 2, to win the 71st California Junior Girls’ State Championship on the Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula Country Club. With the win, Romero, the 2020 Junior Tour of Northern California Player of the Year, joins an illustrious list of champions including Jamille Jose (1990), Christina Kim (2000) and two-time winner Yealimi Noh (2014, 2018).
“A lot of the past champions are people I look up to. I’m honored to have my name with them,” Romero said. “I’ve been working very hard on my game, so this feels great. It’s the biggest win I’ve had so far.”
The No.1 seed, Romero had to use every part of her game to hold off Varma. While Romero took an early 2-up lead through just the first four holes, Varma responded with back-to-back birdies on holes 5 and 6 to re-tie the match. The two stayed tied until the par-5 10th hole, where Romero made eagle after reaching the green in two and draining a 12-footer. Three holes later on the par-4 13th, Romero’s lead grew to 2-up when Varma missed the fairway right and found herself in a waste bunker. While Varma’s second shot out of the bunker hit the green, it would keep rolling into a greenside bunker, leading to a bogey. Romero, meanwhile, got on and two-putted for par.
“I knew coming in that I had to be on top of my game,” said Varma, who was the No.1 ranked amateur female in India prior to relocating to the U.S. two years ago. “I made some saves today, but in the finals making saves isn’t enough. I needed to be making birdies and pars.”
Still down two holes heading to the 14th tee, it looked like Varma would catch a break when Romero’s tee shot landed short of the green on the par-3 hole. Varma would knock her own tee shot to within about 15 feet of the flagstick, and it appeared she’d have a chance to cut the lead to 1-up with four holes to go. But Romero pitched up on the green and proceeded to sink her 20-foot par putt, halting any potential momentum swing in Varma’s favor.
“That putt was so big for me,” said Romero with a smile. “If I miss it, my lead is only one. It felt so good when I saw it drop in.”
Just a hole later on the par-5 15th, Varma’s door of opportunity closed more when her approach shot bounded through the green, eventually leading to another bogey. The two halved No.16, giving Romero the win.
“I tried my best,” said Varma, a 17-year-old senior at Granite Bay High who has already verbally committed to the University of Oregon. “It could’ve been better. But you always take the positives and just keep moving forward.”
For Romero, the win finally gave her a chance to relax. She had commuted each day to the course, and was pining for what she called “a 10-hour sleep.”
“It’s a lot of golf. It’s a long week,” Romero said. “Match play requires a lot of thinking too. Half of it with match play is the mental game. This is a win I’ll always remember.”View results for California Junior Girls
ABOUT THE California Junior Girls
The California Junior Girls State Championship was
the first of its kind on the West Coast. It began in
1950 at the Old Del Monte Golf Course in Monterey.
In 1974, the tournament was moved to Monterey
Peninsula Country Club in Pebble Beach where it
continues to be played today.
Format is 36 holes of stroke play qualifying
from which the low 32 advance to match play.
Players must have reached their 13th birthday by the
first day of the
tournament but not their 19th birthday on or before
the last day of the
tournament. (Players 9 to 12 years old considered at
the discretion of the
View Complete Tournament Information