When Toni Sottile was 11 years old, she earned a spot on an all-star soccer team, but she really loved golf and wanted a new set of clubs.
After some thought, Sottile picked golf, and it appears she made the right choice.
Since arriving at Westlake High, Sottile has made her presence felt as one of the team’s top players.
This season, the junior blossomed into one of the top players in the county.
Sottile and senior Kristen Chen form a strong 1-2 punch at the top of the Westlake lineup, leading the Warriors to an undefeated regular season and another Marmonte League team title.
Sottile also won the Marmonte League individual title, shooting a 1-under par on the final day of the tournament.
“I felt really comfortable with my game all year,” Sottile said. “I worked really hard on my game leading up to the season, so it was nice to see it pay off.
“Winning league (as an individual) was a goal of mine coming into high school, so to finally accomplish that felt really good. We have a really strong league with a lot of great players, so winning league is a great accomplishment and something I am really proud of.”
For all that she achieved this season, Sottile is The Star’s Girls Golfer of the Year.
Westlake head coach Ross Fulgentis said Sottile was the ultimate team leader.
“Toni had a great year from start to finish and one of our most consistent players,” Fulgentis said. “Toni’s breakout season can be truly attributed to how much work she has put into her short game.”
Sottle said the genesis of her strong junior season started in the summer, when she played in a lot of tournaments, including several American Junior Golf Association events.
“When I first started playing AJGA tournament I felt out of place and wondered if I belonged, but over time I’ve gotten more comfortable with my game and competing with so many strong players,” she said.
Looking back at her sophomore year, Sottile realized she would get too amped when she was playing well. She talked with her longtime swing coach Roger Gunn about staying in the present.
Gunn, a longtime instructor at Tierra Rejada who also plays a lot of tournament golf, challenged Sottile to examine how she approached her success during rounds.
“He said I should ask myself what (LPGA star) Lydia Ko would be thinking if she were in my place,” Sottile said. “If she were making the turn at a few under, would she be happy and be satisfied?
“She would want to go lower over the next nine, so it was a way to remind me to always have the pedal to the medal and to keep pushing.”
Sottile has also worked hard on putting the occasional bad hole behind her. She said she’s made progress, evidenced by a recent tournament where she made a double bogey but came back to make two straight birdies.
“I am getting better at looking at the positives and not letting the bad stuff get to me,” Sottile said.
Sottile’s older sister, JoJo, was a standout golfer at La Reina who went on to play at Northern Arizona University.
Watching her sister excel inspired Sottile to reach her own potential.
“When she went away to school, JoJo told me she wanted me to be better than her,” Sottile said. “I remember going with my mom and following JoJo around and watching her play. … We enjoy competing against each other in a fun way.”
Being a strong competitor, Sottile loves that Westlake is in a league full of top talent.
“Being around so many other strong players has made me better,” Sottile said. “It’s so much fun to compete, even just with Kristen and the other girls on the team. We push each other but we also pull for each other as well.”
Sottile is looking forward to leading her team next season and also making a run at the state tournament.
Her coach has no doubt she’s ready.
“Toni is a true competitor and a pleasure to watch as a coach,” Fulgentis said. “We expect her to lead us next year.”