Glencoe freshman Debbie Yuhanna and junior Chelsea Plinke add a worldly, cosmopolitan flair to the Crimson Tide girls golf team

Chelsea Plinke and Debbie Yuhanna are varsity golfers for Glencoe.

While playing a varsity sport is a significant accomplishment for any teenager, that might be what stands out least about these two girls.

What might stand out most is the remarkable depth of their life experiences while still in their adolescence.

Plinke, a junior, played for the Crimson Tide as a freshman and then spent 11 months during her sophomore year in France as an exchange student through a scholarship from the Hillsboro Rotary Club. As might be expected, she is fluent in French.

Yuhanna, a freshman, is a native of Pakistan and lived in North Carolina for a year with her parents and three siblings before moving to Oregon in the seventh grade to live with a couple who serves as her guardians. (After that year, Yuhanna’s parents returned to Pakistan but wanted their children to remain in the United States for safety reasons.)

Yuhanna speaks several languages and dialects, she said, including Urdu and Punjabi. Her English is practically HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Glencoe freshman Debbie Yuhanna walks off the tee box during Tuesday's Pacific Conference girls golf tournament at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in North Plains. Yuhanna grew up in Pakistan and speaks multiple languages; teammate Chelsea Plinke, a junior who studied abroad in France, helps give the Crimson Tide girls golf team a worldly flair.

“Four years ago, she didn’t speak a word of English,” remarked Glencoe coach Mark Ferris at a recent practice. “And ... I can’t detect any accent.”

The two girls bring a diverse and cosmopolitan flair to a relatively inexperienced team of just six players — the five varsity members and one junior varsity member.

“It’s kind of unusual. I don’t know if it would be unusual if you had two girls on the team that spoke Spanish,” Ferris observed. “But one speaks fluent French — not many high school kids do that. And then you got Debbie, who’s from Pakistan and speaks all these Middle Eastern languages.”

And after growing up thousands of miles apart in incredibly different circumstances and countries, golf has brought Yuhanna and Plinke together as teammates. Both girls took up the game at about the same time — though they were different ages.

Plinke said she decided to start playing “spontaneously” in the spring of her freshman year, when she was not interested in turning out for softball or track.

“I think it’s a really amazing opportunity that we just get to golf at Pumpkin (Ridge Golf Club), one of the top 100 in the United States,” Plinke said.

Not until Yuhanna came to Hillsboro several years ago to live with her guardians was she introduced to golf.

“They basically taught it to me, because they played a lot,” Yuhanna said. “And when I came, the first summer, I was like, ‘There’s nothing for me to do,’ so they’re like, ‘Let’s go golfing.’ I didn’t even know what golf was, and now I’m playing.”

And she is doing pretty well for a relative novice. Yuhanna played in the Tide’s No. 1 spot on Tuesday, when Glencoe hosted a Pacific Conference tournament at Pumpkin Ridge in North Plains, which is the Tide’s home practice course.

“Debbie’s kind of quiet, but she’s very competitive and she hits the ball really well, and she’s been getting better through the course of the season,” Ferris said.

While Plinke lived abroad from August 2011 to July 2012, she resided with three host families who also belong to the Rotary Club in the Chateau du Loir region, located in northwest France. There, she absorbed the French language and culture.

“Not all exchange students learn the language because they spend so much time communicating with parents at home,” Plinke said. “But I set a rule for myself that the first few months, I would try to make limited contact so I wouldn’t be as homesick.

“I knew that would help me in the long run, and it was really hard at the time, but it definitely paid off.”

But what Plinke did not do was play golf. In France, she explained, golf is viewed as a luxury and golfers must be members of country clubs to play. Instead, she put her focus into her studies — she went to school for almost 12 hours a day, she said. So she has been a bit rusty in her return to the team this season, but she held down the Tide’s fifth varsity spot on Tuesday.

While the two have played together only sparingly this season — players from the same team are split up during tournaments, and during practice the team tends to pair up players by grade level — Yuhanna was complimentary of Plinke’s swing and said Plinke could best her in putting, while Plinke said that Yuhanna is skilled at long-distance and fairway shots.

Like so many other golfers, both girls have already fallen for golf’s challenge and charm.

“I really like it out there. It’s really beautiful when you golf out there,” Yuhanna said. “It’s kind of like humbling yourself, trying to accept how you do.

“You can’t get mad, and it’s all your fault if you do something bad, like a bad shot.”

Said Plinke: “Golf calms me down too. You have a horrible day or a stressful day or you have so much homework to do, you come out here, and you don’t think about anything.”

Plinke and Yuhanna belong to a Glencoe team that Ferris described as inexperienced. In fact, only sophomore Becca Collins returned from last year’s team and several of the girls had not played a full 18 holes in one outing prior to the first tournament of the HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Glencoe junior Chelsea Plinke, who spent last year studying abroad in France, confers with head golf coach Mark Ferris during Tuesday's conference tournament.

But that is just golf, and there is so much more to Plinke, who is active in student government and wants to be an orthodontist, and Yuhanna, a red belt in karate who has designs on a potential career in intelligence, where her language skills would prove useful.

As Ferris put it: “They’re good kids.”

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