Delanie Dunkle had no time to waste.
She hopped in the passenger seat of her mom’s Toyota Prius, and the two sped out of the Blacklake Golf Resort parking lot on a windy September day. Luckily, the Arroyo Grande High School sophomore had finished the front nine of her mid-season PAC 8 dual golf match in record time. It left just enough wiggle room to make the 23-mile drive north from Nipomo to Sinsheimer Park, where she joined the Arroyo Grande tennis team for an afternoon match against San Luis Obispo.
Welcome to Dunkle’s 2016 season.
Though the golf/tennis split in September was the only time she played both sports competitively on the same day, it was a microcosm of the 15-year-old’s life so far — splitting time between two sports and competing at a high level. Just the way she likes it.
Never miss a local story.
In that golf match, Dunkle helped Arroyo Grande to a second-place finish as the team’s No. 1 player. In the tennis match, with just five minutes to warm up and switch gears, Dunkle won 6-0, 6-0, 6-0 as the No. 1 singles player and lifted the tennis powerhouse Eagles to a key league win.
Dunkle would go on to make a deep run into the CIF-Southern Section singles tennis draw and qualify for the CIF-Southern Section Individual Championships in golf later this fall.
For her accomplishments this season, Dunkle has been named The Tribune’s 2016 County Player of the Year in both girls tennis and golf.
Dunkle sat on the porch outside the tennis pro shop Wednesday at San Luis Obispo Country Club and looked out over the collection of hard courts. Everyone who passed by knew her name. It’s probably because she has been there countless times since her father, Bill Dunkle, moved their family from Southern California to take a job as the club’s tennis pro when she was 7 years old.
But her tennis playing days started long before that.
“Since I could hold a racket, I’ve been playing,” Dunkle said.
At 11 years old, she started playing in some of the top junior tournaments around the state and slowly began to climb the ranks. After a strong showing at a USTA junior event in June, Dunkle improved her national ranking and solidified herself as a five-star recruit. As of last Friday, Dunkle is ranked as the No. 52 sophomore in the nation.
Even with her busy high school golf and tennis schedules this fall — along with school — Dunkle still found time to play in many of the top junior tennis events on weekends. But there is no substitute, she said, for high school tennis.
“Your teammates will be there on the fence cheering for you for every point that you win and encouraging you even when you don’t win the point,” Dunkle said. “That’s really fun.”
Dunkle didn’t lose many points this season in the PAC 8. In fact, she didn’t drop a game during the season and finished with a 29-0 record. Arroyo Grande finished 14-0 and won its seventh-consecutive PAC 8 title.
Before the 2016 season, Arroyo Grande tennis coach Lori Hollister and golf coach Claudia Souder got together to map out a plan that best suits each team without wearing out the talented sophomore — just as they had done before Dunkle’s freshman season.
“It worked well for both teams last year, so we did it again this year based on the strengths of the other teams,” Hollister said. “She doesn’t seem to require a lot of extra rest, and she does very well kind of on the run. There aren’t a lot of people that can do that.”
Said Souder: “We made sure to check on her to make sure we weren’t burning her out — especially in the postseason — but she took it like a champ.”
Dunkle said the schedule worked well, but it wasn’t without its challenges.
“The hardest part of balancing the two sports is keeping up my mental and physical state, just getting enough rest in between and not deteriorating throughout the season,” Dunkle said. “I tried to stay fresh the whole season so I could peak when it came to league finals and CIF.”
This season, the plan paid off.
Dunkle shot a 6-over-par 78, her best 18-hole score of the season, at the CIF-Southern Section Girls Golf Northern Region Championships and survived a playoff to advance to the finals, the only county golfer to do so. In the finals, she shot an 83 to finish in 48th place in the competitive Southern Section.
She finished the golf season with an average nine-hole score of 39 and still holds a piece of the school record of 35 set her freshman year.
In tennis, Dunkle advanced to the individuals Round of 16 in the CIF-Southern Section and finished the season with a 35-4 record.
“I got further in CIF this year in both sports than I did last year, so I was really proud of that,” Dunkle said.
Two More Years
Dunkle was back on the tennis court Wednesday for the first time in a week. She said all the long hours and demanding schedules of each sport finally caught up to her in her last tennis match when her back became tight.
But that doesn’t mean she plans on slowing down just yet.
“I feel like one day I will have to choose (a sport),” Dunkle said. “I want to try and play golf and tennis for all four years of high school, but in college I want to try and play tennis.”
Her main motivations to keep up the double duty? Her competitive nature and love for her teammates.
“We have become so close over the years,” Dunkle said. “I love it so much. I don’t want to leave golf or tennis for high school because it just wouldn’t be the same. I am definitely prepared to do it next year, too.”
It’s that kind of determination and talent that has Dunkle’s coaches thinking she can do anything.
“I’m still trying to get her to come out for swimming,” Souder said with a laugh.
The Tribune County Tennis and Golf Player of the Year
All County Teams
Nicoline Breytenbach, Atascadero
Mili Proft, Templeton
Erika Egg, Arroyo Grande
Julia Johnson, Nipomo
Mary Waterman, Arroyo Grande
Casey Lieberman, Arroyo Grande
Jenny Zakaria, San Luis Obispo
Maddie Handy, San Luis Obispo
Anna Anselmi, Templeton
Bugg Zundel, Templeton
Macy Sheets, Morro Bay
Judy Withun-At, Morro Bay
Kinsey McBryde, Arroyo Grande
Isabel Carpenter, San Luis Obispo
Sydney Haughian, Mission Prep
Morgan Humphrey, Atascadero
Mikayla Stone, Paso Robles
Tess Lewohn, Atascadero
Hannah Ogden, San Luis Obispo
Brooke Cuzick, Nipomo
Taffy Ketchum, Morro Bay
Karley Pinkerton, Arroyo Grande
Editor’s Note: The selections for the All-County teams were made by The Tribune sports staff based on season-long in-person and video observations, conversations with coaches and statistical analysis.