Sports

Golf teams young, but still state threats

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Once again, Bainbridge Island’s golf teams are proving to be among the top units in the state after playing their top rivals in the Metro League Tuesday afternoon at Wing Point Golf & Country Club.

The boys, fresh from a shellacking (163 to 139 points) of defending state champion O’Dea on Tuesday, have a solid opportunity next spring to win their first state team title since 2004.

Coach Bob Dwyer prefers being cautious when talking about the team’s chances at state since much depends on how many players qualify at the district tournament on Oct. 20 at Harbor Pointe in Mukilteo. But he’s excited about this group, some of whom helped the Spartans place second at state earlier this year.

“This is a very deep, talented team,” he said Thursday. “The 163 points is the most we’ve ever scored against them (O’Dea). Because we go eight deep, it’s almost like a college team in high school. We’re young, with only one senior, but this is a deeper and better team individually than our team in ‘04. We’re optimistic about state.”

The girls’ team, which placed fourth in last spring’s state tournament, figures to be a challenger again during the 2009 event. But if Tuesday’s 127-111 point loss to Holy Names Academy at Wing Point is indicative of their prospects, they might have to settle for something less than the team title.

“Holy Names was second at state last year and they’ve got everyone back,” said Bainbridge Coach Steve Nielsen. “Plus, the coach’s daughter (Sammie Pless) is very good and she’s only a freshman. I thought we could have played better, but we needed a little help from Holy Names to win and we didn’t get it.”

Nielsen’s team features three experienced players and three freshmen, which makes it difficult to keep pace with a team as deep as Holy Names. The top three (with Tuesday’s nine-hole point totals in parenthesis) – Anna Bourland (33), Ryan Nottingham (32) and Peyton Lunzer (27) – have led the Spartans to a 5-1 record. Youngsters Julia Gross (19), Jasmine Shattuck (16) and Maddy Devlin (7) have proven to be coachable and have shown steady improvement during the season, Nielsen said.

The girls placed second in the Metro League tournament last year, then second in district and fourth at state. While Holy Names might be out of reach, Nielsen would like to see similar success this year. And he hasn’t given up on catching undefeated Holy Names because of the improvement his freshmen have made.

“We’re a good team and we’re getting better,” he said. “It’s somewhat difficult for us (and other Metro teams) because we’re done after the league tournament (Oct. 14 at Jefferson Park and Oct. 16 at West Seattle), while most schools play only in the spring. We have to keep playing during the winter to stay sharp for the district and state tournaments. But it also helps our young players because we end up playing a lot.”

Bourland finished tied for second Tuesday with Pless, while Holy Names’ Kristin Tan won the event with 36 points. (Points include 5 for a birdie, 4 for a par and 3 for a bogey, etc.) Nottingham placed fourth.

In boys’ play, Bainbridge golfers had the top three scores (strokes), led by Carl Jonson’s 31. Kyle Leonard (33) and Bobby Griffin (34). Will Whealdon tied for fourth (35) with O’Dea’s Tyler Kato. Other Bainbridge players included Rusty Furth (38), Jack Seidl (38), Kyle Hurt (39) and Austin Clement (46).

On Monday in Seattle, the boys scored 146 points to West Seattle’s 106 in another dual match. Freshmen Whealdon and Furth posted rounds of 37 and 38, respectively. Kyle Schneider and Clement shared third with 40s, while Griffin added a 41. The Spartans took the top eight spots in the match.

Dwyer said he has been a little surprised by the overall performance of the 11-player team, which includes only one senior and three juniors. With the top eight playing within a stroke of each other, he said, there are several reasons why the team as a whole is playing beyond its years.

“They have played a lot of golf together and they like each other,” he said. “Road trips are a lot of fun. They’ve also played a lot of tough summer tournaments, getting exposed to a lot of different courses. That helps change the mindset of the young player because they learn that any course is just a place to play. It doesn’t matter where you are. You don’t get tricky; you just find a place to hit the ball.”

While Jonson may be the team’s top individual player (state runner-up last spring), Dwyer is hoping six of his golfers will play well enough in the district tournament to qualify for state.

Both teams end the regular season next week at Wing Point, playing Eastside Catholic on Tuesday and Blanchet on Wednesday, beginning at 3 p.m.

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