Sports

Sibling rivalry: Portillo putters make golf a family game

Above: Jesse and Rosie Portillo pause during practice. They helped the Falcon golf teams at the District 1 golf  tournaments this year. Below: the Portillo siblings practice chipping at Useless Bay Golf & Country Club.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Above: Jesse and Rosie Portillo pause during practice. They helped the Falcon golf teams at the District 1 golf tournaments this year. Below: the Portillo siblings practice chipping at Useless Bay Golf & Country Club.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

USELESS BAY — Rosie Portillo bested her big brother once, and only on one hole. That’s the hole she best remembers about playing with Jesse. Not the first round they played together as South Whidbey High School Falcons. And not the time they both finished the Cascade Conference championship golf meets.

After practice at Useless Bay Golf & Country Club, the brother and sister stayed at the course. They played a few extra holes, just Jesse and Rosie. It was during one of these after practice sessions that Rosie had a better score on the third hole, a par three. Whether she shot par or bogey on that memorable hole, Rosie couldn’t say.

“I can’t remember. I just remember I got better than him,” she said.

The Portillos are a golfing family. Jesse learned from his grandfather Frank Portillo and his dad Matt Portillo. In turn, Rosie learned from all three.

Jesse, a senior on the Falcon boys golf team, ended his Falcon career after he qualified for the state 2A tournament. Rosie has three years left to try and outdo her older brother by qualifying for the second round of the state golf tournament.

“At the point she’s at right now, she should be very happy with what she’s been doing. She improved a lot and has the chance to do some great things,” Jesse said.

“If she sticks with it, she can be a great golfer. I’m going to keep pushing her so that she can grow and become a great golfer if she really wants to.”

His opinion is a bit biased, however. Also, Jesse was only able to see her play a few times. Even then, he tried to keep his distance so she could focus.

“She kind of gets a little bit nervous when I watch her,” Jesse said, adding that he doesn’t get nervous with her around. “I don’t usually get nervous.”

One of those was the jamboree at the start of the golf season in March, when Jesse and Rosie were partnered at Useless Bay Golf & Country Club. The Portillo siblings walked nine holes together for Rosie’s first meet of her Falcon career.

“It came in handy. He was always there to tell me what I did wrong,” Rosie said.

Jesse helped his sister learn the basics of golf, and that includes her swing. Rosie’s drive is fluid, not as powerful as Jesse’s, but it has the same effortless mechanics. Jesse also passed on one of the most important lessons he learned about golf, to focus on what’s ahead and forget what’s behind.

“I’ve just tried to help her with the basics and look at it from the big picture,” he continued, “how to mentally get her head in the right spot so she can drop those low scores.”

“That’s a big step for her in order to become a much better golfer.”

Mental preparation will be useful during the season. Playing during the offseason is critical if she wants to outperform her brother’s high marks. Rosie began golfing in a regimented way only a couple of weeks prior to the start of the season.

“She went in cold. It was probably two weeks before the season that she started practicing,” Jesse laughed.

Getting Rosie out on a golf course may prove more of a challenge than it did for Jesse.

“I think he enjoys it a little more than I do,” she said.

Next season, her goal is to make it to the state 1A girls golf tournament. South Whidbey will be a 1A school next year. Oh, and she’d like to beat her brother on a full round, someday.

“If he doesn’t keep playing, then maybe by my senior year I’ll be better than him,” she said.

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