Jefferson P. Nolan
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These days, Taylor Yoshitake is no more than a blur.
Not too often can one spot the senior golfer on campus.
When she’s not in class, she’s at golf practice. When she’s not at golf practice, she’s power-walking to get to golf practice.
After a few days of nagging Yoshitake for an interview, she finally agreed to sit down with Mustang News.
“I’d like to meet with you, but there’s just no time,” she said in a text message.
Twenty minutes was all the time she had.
In an effort to graduate on time, Yoshitake is currently enrolled in 20 units of class — and has been for the past three quarters.
And with the Cal Poly women’s golf team hosting the Big West Conference Women’s Golf Championship at the the San Luis Obispo Golf and Country Club this weekend, life is even more hectic than usual for the senior golf star. April 13-15, Yoshitake is completing a four-year collegiate golfing career and leaving Cal Poly as arguably the best women’s golfer the university has produced in recent history.
But currently, that is difficult to process for Yoshitake. There is just no time.
“This year, it’s been eat, sleep, golf, school,” Yoshitake said. “And then I fall asleep before I’m trying to study again.”
But when asked what she would do if she had enough time in the day, a radiant smile broke across Yoshitake’s face.
“If I had enough time, I would like to go hit a couple of buckets of balls on the range for an hour or two,” she said. “I’d like to then chip on the green for another two hours, just practicing different shots. And I’d play 18 holes after. Then, putting. I love putting.”
It was a stream of consciousness from Yoshitake. Her face lit up; she gazed dreamily in the distance as she spoke.
But until spring quarter ends, it will only be a dream — because right now, it’s go time.
After recording a team-best 75.2 scoring average this season, Yoshitake enters the conference championship as Cal Poly’s top-ranked golfer.
But unlike many of her fellow athletes, Yoshitake did not grow up donning a single glove at a driving range or chipping away at her local three-par golf course.
Though her father was once a professional golfer, his daughter grew up performing ballet and playing basketball.
“My parents never forced (golf) on me,” Yoshitake said. “They just wanted me to enjoy the sport for what it is, and if I liked it, they were happy for me. Freshman year (of high school), I started playing, and I realized I was a lot better at golf than I was at basketball. I decided that I wanted to play golf in college.”
A four-time first-team All-Del Rey League honoree at Saint Monica Catholic High School, Yoshitake’s fond memories of high school included beating the sun to the golf course for a 6:30 a.m. tee time every Saturday morning with her grandfather and cousins. Even then, the company of her family and the early-morning dew that settled on the freshly cut grass served as a sanctuary.
“Golf is the place where I get away from everything,” she said. “I can just enjoy the golf course. It’s just the game. There is no school, there are no problems.”
Under the guidance of her dad, former professional golfer Todd Yoshitake, the Santa Monica native followed in her father’s footsteps.
“I can share with her what she’s going through because I’ve experienced a lot of it already,” Todd said. “As a competitor, she can play very well under pressure. She already knows her own game and herself, so I think she’s going to be just fine out there.”
Todd Yoshitake is currently in his 16th year serving as the director of golf for the Riviera Country Club, a premier golf course that is the primary host for the Professional Golfer’s Association of America Tour’s Northern Trust Open. The course has played host to three major championships, and in addition to attracting various celebrity golfers, the course has seen the likes of Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Sam Snead and Tom Watson.
Yoshitake even named her French Bulldog “Hogan” after the renowned golf legend.
Though Cal Poly head coach Scott Cartwright will have to grapple with the loss of six seniors on the team, the consistency Yoshitake has displayed through her four years at Cal Poly is virtually irreplaceable.
“It will be several freshmen trying to make up for one player next year,” Cartwright said. “She’s not as strong compared to the other girls on how far she hits it, but she’s consistent. That’s probably her biggest attribute.”
But in the wake of her impending graduation, the golfer knows that though her college days may be behind her, a new, professional adventure awaits her.
In August, Yoshitake will compete in a three-stage qualifying tournament held by the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Qualifying School, and the top golfers will be awarded with LPGA membership.
“I’m really excited to move on to the next chapter in my life and put everything I have into golf,” Yoshitake said. “I haven’t been able to do that yet. I’m excited to see where it can take me. I really believe that I can go far in this game.”