Two South Whidbey boys golfers finish in top five at district

The greens were fast. Too fast.

Still, somehow, someway, South Whidbey had two golfers qualify for the state 2A boys golf tournament. Senior Harrison Price finished second overall at the District 1 boys golf tournament at the Skagit Golf and Country Club and senior Jesse Portillo finished fifth overall to punch their tickets to compete at the Classic Golf Club in Spanaway next week. Several warm, dry days in a row had compacted the greens, making putts roll farther and faster than Western Washington golfers are accustomed, and that led to the highest first round stroke qualifier Falcon head coach Steve Jones’ memory.

“The conditions were treacherous. The golf course resembled an ice skating rink more than a golf course. The greens were hard and fast and slippery,” Jones said.

“Any miscue on the green, the ball would roll well past the hole.”

After the front nine holes of the first day, Portillo had doubts about his chances to make the second round of the district tournament, let alone the state 2A tournament. He wracked up 47 strokes, marked by 10 on the first hole, one of his worst openings. Ever.

“After the front nine, I thought I was done,” Portillo said. “Jones reassured me that I should never give up.”

The coach’s pep talk worked, and Portillo recovered on the back nine. He finished with a stroke total of 83.

“I was just keeping the ball on the fairway,” he said. “I was more relaxed on the back nine.”

The front half of the course proved a challenge to Price as well. South Whidbey’s top golfer shot a 42 through the front nine.

“From a swing standpoint, I didn’t feel right,” Price said.

Even so, the other golfers struggled just as much. Price was able to salvage his round on the back nine for a 79.

On the second day, Price kept his score close and Portillo dropped his tally, both to 80 strokes.

“It’s kind of discouraging because I know I could’ve played better.”

The course was familiar to Portillo and Price, who both competed in the Egbers Invitational on May 7. Pins were changed, however, and, instead of a downpour, the golfers played in sunshine.

“They were tucking pins,” Price said. “You have to hit a perfect shot. You had to really focus on every shot, which is exhausting.”

South Whidbey had a third golfer, junior Derrick Riley, reach the second round. Riley shot a 92, the qualifying mark after the first day, and finished with a 99 in the second round. The other Falcons who competed at the district tournament were senior Quintin Viers (97), senior Jerimiah Robey (103) and junior Evan Merculief (107).

On Friday, the final two Falcon golfers practiced lightly, driving at the Useless Bay Golf & Country Club range before walking the course with Jones and assistant coach Jim Thompson.

“We’ve worked hard all season,” Price said. “I’m not going to go out today and change something that’s been working all season.”

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