BY STEPHEN LYNCH Special to The Californian
It took Kaley In just a handful of years to rise from a novice golfer to one of the best girls high school players in the nation.
However, just because In made the transformation look simple doesn't mean it didn't come with a lot of effort.
All of the Stockdale senior's dedication paid off this past season when she posted the lowest scoring average among local players (75.2) and won numerous events, including the Central Section individual championship.
For those reasons and others, In is The Californian's Girls Golf All-Area Player of the Year.
"It's been a lot of hard work," In said. "I've missed out on a lot of fun things with my friends, like birthday parties. I actually missed prom last year to go to a tournament in Washington. I've had to give up a lot of stuff, but it's all worth it in the end. Winning tournaments is one of my favorite things."
In, who played spectacularly throughout the regular season, winning all but one Southwest Yosemite League mini-tournament, was even better in the postseason.
Shortly after shooting a 73 to win the South Area tournament for a second year in a row, In posted the best score (77) at Buena Vista Golf Course in leading Stockdale to its first section team title.
A week later, she carded a 74 en route to winning the individual section title after three playoff holes against Clovis West's Camille Orito.
In wrapped up the season with a Central Section-best 75 at the Southern Cal regional in Murrieta.
A model of consistency, her highest round of the year was an 80.
In didn't begin playing until 8th grade.
But just two years later, In, who shaved nearly 12 strokes from her average from her freshman year to her senior year, was an All-Area selection for the first of three times.
"She's had a goal since her freshman year to be good enough to compete, and she wanted to go on," Stockdale coach Shannon Nieblas said. "She's put countless hours in. There's been times when we got done with a match and she would stay there and hit or go back to her home course and practice."
In said her greatest golf influence has been her father, Yong.
"He's pushed me when I didn't feel like going," she said. "He's been there helping me every step of the way. When I can't figure something out, he's always there. ... And he just gives me the confidence I need to go out and play."
In spends her spare time working on her game on the course, or at the driving range with her father and younger brother.
In believes her biggest strengths as a golfer are her mental approach and short game.
"If I have a bad hole, I can forget about it and move on because I know that there is nothing I can do about the last hole or a couple holes ago when I made a triple-bogey or something," she said. "Not that that usually happens."
Last month, In, ranked No. 56 nationally in her class and No. 14 in the state by GolfWeek.com, signed a national letter of intent with UC Irvine.
She plans on studying engineering there but admits to liking golf more than school. "I want to graduate college, get a degree," she said. "And then if I'm good enough and I can compete at the pro level, then I'd love to play (as a pro)."