Danville native Sara Banke said she started practicing golf "like a pro" after returning home from UC Irvine.

The extra focus paid off at the California State Women's Amateur Golf Championship, where Banke, a Monte Vista High graduate, took first place by two shots with a three-round total of 213 at the Ojai Valley and Spa Golf Course on July 14-16.

Banke of E-Club East Bay had rounds 68, 72 and 73. Cal Poly's Madison Hirsch, a former Mission San Jose star, finished sixth at 222.

It was a watershed win for Banke, the daughter of Dana Banke, the head pro at Poplar Creek Golf Course in San Mateo and the men's golf coach at Menlo College.

"It was probably my biggest success thus far," said Banke, a recent UC Irvine graduate.

She credits her dad with helping sharpen her mental game since she returned home to Danville after college. She doesn't have all the distractions associated with college life now; golf is front and center.

Dana Banke believes Sara is on the right course for success.

"She said she'd like to take a year or two and see if she could get as good as she can and go through the Tour School and maybe play in the LPGA, which is great," Dana Banke said. "I played on the European Tour and had a stint on the PGA Tour, so I can help her get to a level of trying at least."

Dana said many young players don't understand the focus needed to be a touring pro.


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"Sara's a really good ball striker from tee to green," he said. "Some of these ladies, she was at times outdriving them by 50 or 60 yards. They're having to hit long irons and hybrids ito holes, and she's hitting mid-irons and short irons. She really has the physical gifts to be able to do it; her short game is something that she's really working on."

The fact that she thrived on the scenic Ojai layout more suited for ball-strikers offered evidence that Banke is putting it all together.

Sara, who grew up playing on public courses in the valley, said she "loved" competing in the powerful Monte Vista High program, but didn't golf too seriously back then. The Mustangs advanced to the CIF state tournament three times and featured several future college players.

Soccer

Former Dougherty Valley star Stephanie Amack, a sophomore at Stanford, was among 21 players named to the U.S. roster for the under-20 women's World Cup, Aug. 5-24 in Canada. As a freshman at Stanford in 2013, Amack played in 17 matches, with 14 starts and was named to Pac-12 All-Freshman team. She plays outside back and center midfield for the U.S. team.

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