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Swinging for the pins, not the fences

Natalie Tanaka is holding a stick.
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Camarillo High’s girls’ golf team was treated to jumbo-size carrot cake muffins and Popsicles after practice on Wednesday. The Scorpions celebrated Natalie Tanaka’s 16th birthday in style.

Tanaka’s mother Karen and older sister Alyssa hosted the bash at Las Posas Country Club.

“My mom loves being the team mom,” said Natalie Tanaka, the Scorpions’ No. 1 golfer. “She brings food every chance she gets. My teammates love her.”

Tanaka enjoyed a memorable birthday week on the links, carding top scores against Moorpark on Monday, and against Rio Mesa and Channel Islands on Tuesday.

The junior Scorpion scored a season-best five-over-par 40 for a nine-hole round against the Musketeers to open the Coastal Canyon League season.

“It’s been a great season so far,” Tanaka said. “We’re playing well as a team. My teammates push me to get better. They’re the reason why I’m doing so well.”

Tanaka has progressed since joining the Scorpions as a freshman. She was an alternate for the Scorpion squad that qualified for the CIF-Southern Section firstround team regionals in 2012.

Last season, Tanaka carded a 39 at the Pacific View League tournament finale to place fifth individually. She snagged the final spot in the section tournament at River Ridge Golf Club in Oxnard.

“That was a great experience,” Tanaka said. “I didn’t have my best performance, but it was fun to get there. This year, I hope to get there individually and as a team. We have a shot of winning the Coastal Canyon.”

Tanaka grew up playing for the Camarillo Girls Softball Association and decided to try golf in seventh grade. Tanaka’s uncle, Steven, took her to a local driving range for an introductory lesson.

“I was swinging like I was hitting a baseball,” said Tanaka, who’s enrolled in three Advanced Placement classes and is part of the Kiwanis and Mock Trial clubs at school. “I was hitting it pretty far so I thought I was doing well and decided to continue playing.”

Tanaka trains with Brad Sherfy, a former UCLA men’s golf coach, at Moorpark Country Club.

She has a powerful swing off the tee and excels in chipping.

“Natalie is so dedicated to improving in every area of her game,” said Madison Lundberg, a senior captain and No. 2 golfer. “I train with her at Moorpark Country Club and she always gives me pointers. She’s focused on her game, but at the same time she wants everyone around her to get better.”

Tanaka’s sisters, Lauren and Alyssa, played sports at Camarillo and graduated from UC Irvine. Lauren suited up for the Scorpion basketball team while Alyssa roamed the softball diamond. The sisters’ father is Andy Tanaka.

Freshman Ali Muncy said she admires Natalie Tanaka’s work ethic.

“Seeing how hard she trains motivates me to train just as hard,” Muncy said. “She’s always on the golf course working on her swing. She’s all about golf.”

Tanaka competed for the school’s water polo team as a freshman. Her mother once cooked a feast of Asian fusion food and burgers for the water polo squad.

Karen Tanaka may be cooking a celebratory dinner for the team at the end of the season if the Scorpions snag league hardware.

“I don’t want to think ahead,” Natalie Tanaka said, “but we have a very good chance to win league.”

CATCH UP WITH THE SCORPIONS

Camarillo High’s girls’ golf team started this season 5-0.

The Scorpions opened the Coastal Canyon League schedule by defeating Moorpark at Camarillo Springs on Monday.

The Scorpions battle Oak Park at 2 p.m. on Tuesday at Camarillo Springs.

Sarah Harter, Carissa Christianson, Kayla Kotake and Carolyn Chaput contribute for the Scorpions. Bill Dowden is the head coach.

“We’re all better from last year,” said Natalie Tanaka, the team’s No. 1 golfer. “Everyone has taken off a few strokes from their game. We don’t have the senior experience, but we have plenty of up-andcoming talent.”

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