Sports

Kaik makes her mark at first day of state golf tournament

Jenna Kaik eyes her putt on the ninth hole during the 2A state girls golf tournament at the Lake Spanaway Golf Course. - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Jenna Kaik eyes her putt on the ninth hole during the 2A state girls golf tournament at the Lake Spanaway Golf Course.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

SPANAWAY — Jenna Kaik made her goal, even if she didn’t make the cut.

Kaik, a sophomore golfer for South Whidbey, said her goal was to not be the worst score at the WIAA 2A state girls golf tournament at Lake Spanaway Golf Course.

With a day one score of 104 strokes and at 64th place, she was far from it.

“That was a pretty good score for her,” said South Whidbey head girls golf coach Tom Sage. “It was right there among her best scores of the year. That’s what I expected, unless she had a really, really good day.”

“I was pleased with what she did,” Sage added.

While the coach was pleased, the player said she left some strokes she’d like to have back.

“I believe I could have done a whole bunch better,” Kaik said. “I lost myself on a couple holes.”

“I just lost myself on the first four holes on the backside,” she added.

Kaik was nine strokes high of advancing to the second day of the state tourney (the cutoff was 95 strokes). The top 40 golfers from the first day qualify for the second day, then the cumulative scores are totaled and lowest stroke wins the tournament.

In the end, Paige Whidbee from Pullman won the tournament with a two-day total of 149 strokes.

After the front nine holes, Kaik had 50 strokes. That total included nine strokes on the third hole. Her coach said she hit into a sand bunker and added three strokes to get out of it.

“It didn’t really affect me that much,” Kaik said. “After that, I just kept getting bogies.”

On the walk from the ninth hole to the 10th tee, Sage said Kaik needed a handful of par holes on the back nine to make the cut. Kaik finished the final nine holes with 54 strokes.

“To be able to be at that score, you have to be fairly consistent with your shots,” Sage said.

“Obviously the inconsistencies added up a little bit. But, if she was really inconsistent, she wouldn’t be where she was at,” he said. “She’s making fewer inconsistent shots.”

The front nine holes were open and wide enough to Kaik’s liking. It allowed her to drive the ball farther with less concern about accuracy or needing relief. A warm, muggy day tired Kaik after the front nine holes.

It was a long day, too. Sage and Kaik arrived at the course two hours before her 10:57 a.m. tee time to prepare and work on her driving, chipping and putting, which Sage and Kaik altered for more aggressive putts.

Kaik finished golfing around 3 p.m. After she finished, her coach noticed her calm attitude, as it was all season.

“She was fine,” Sage said. “She knew she had made some mistakes, but she also knew she had played well.”

“I think she was a little relieved, maybe, because there’s a lot of pressure there. That’s a four-and-a-half-hour round,” her coach added. “People don’t how hard it is to compete for four-and-a-half hours straight.”

“It’s draining,” Sage added.

There was no suspense when Kaik finished. The qualifying cutoff seemed set around 95 strokes to Sage. There was no pressure on her, either before, during or after the match.

“It kind of felt like a normal match, for me,” Kaik said.

Their journey began when they arrived on Monday afternoon and practiced on the course for a few holes. Sage said her body language was off, so he cut practice short to remove Kaik from any pressure she felt.

By tee time, Sage said her body language improved.

“She seemed a lot more relaxed,” Sage said. “And her practice routine was really good. She was hitting the ball well. There [were] a few things we tweaked. One of those was I asked her to be a little more aggressive with her putting.”

They could have stayed for the second day as spectators and for the awards ceremony. Instead, they headed back to South Whidbey Monday night to get back to school, one as a teacher, the other as a student.

“She wanted to get back to school, and I did too,” Sage said. “It’d be fun to hang out, but we both have responsibilities.”

Kaik’s goal next year is to qualify for the second day and score in the low 90s. She has a two-year plan to reduce her strokes by 10 each year.

“Now I know what it’s like for upcoming years, if I do make it again, which I do think I will,” she said.

With no departing seniors, Sage and the girls golf team could become one of the most experienced teams in the Cascade Conference.

“We expect Jenna to go back and do better,” Sage said. “And I expect my two seniors [to-be] to qualify for state. Then I’ve got a couple that are going to be juniors that are going to be in the hunt.

“I’m very excited for the future,” he said.

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