Youth swings in for boys; seniors lead girls squad | SPRING SPORTS PREVIEW

Steve Jones shows his Falcon golfers, including Evan Merculief, the importance of a balanced putter.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Steve Jones shows his Falcon golfers, including Evan Merculief, the importance of a balanced putter.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

Losing two state qualifying boys golfers makes for a tough replacement.

South Whidbey’s girls golf team, however, is flush with senior experience and state-caliber talent. Ben Watanabe / The Record | Chelsey Schultz putts on the practice green at Useless Bay Golf & Country Club.

The tale of two teams continues for Steve Jones and Tom Sage, each a veteran coach in his own right within the Cascade Conference.

But Sage who can boast of his returning 2A state competitor Jenna Kaik and few other senior girls on his team.

“This is the first year we’ve had a chance at taking three girls to state,” Sage said.

Along with Kaik, who qualified for the second round at the 2A state girls golf tournament last year, are three other seniors. Chelsey Schultz narrowly missed the cutoff for the state qualification at the district tournament in 2012. An unusually warm and dry stretch in May dried and hardened the greens and lowered most golfers’ scores, with the average cutoff mark dropping 12 strokes.

“On a normal year, Chelsey would have made it with strokes to spare,” Sage said.

As long as she stays healthy, senior Hannah Cotton could also vie for a spot in the 1A state tournament. (South Whidbey was reassigned to class 1A). Cotton injured her shoulder last year while playing soccer and missed the second half of the golf season. She spent the summer and fall rehabilitating her arm and has big plans for her final Falcon season.

“I definitely think we’re going to be on top of the conference,” Cotton said.

Returning and challenging the varsity girls is sophomore Rosie Portillo, who made a splash at the district tournament last year as a freshman. The fifth and final varsity spot that counts toward the team score is up for grabs, Sage said, and he has high hopes it will be a case of iron-sharpening-iron. Competition on the junior varsity team, which has eight girls registered, coached by Ron Eaton could yield a few golfers to rotate into the fifth and sixth spots, both of which travel with the varsity team.

“It’s so awesome when your two through five have the same basic scores,” Sage said.

Limiting chips and putts will be critical to both teams’ success. The boys lost four of its varsity spots to graduation, leaving the door wide open to whoever asserts himself the leader of the pack.

So far, with only an early season jamboree as a benchmark, junior Jon Rasmussen is the boys’ leader. He spent last season on the junior varsity team behind fellow juniors Derrick Riley and Evan Merculief. Time at the golf range during the summer separated Rasmussen, but he acknowledged his spot isn’t a given.

“It’s pretty wide open,” he said.

At the jamboree, he paired with Portillo and praised the young golfer for covering his errors a few times during the round at Harbour Pointe in Mukilteo.

“She saved my bacon three or four times with chipping,” Rasmussen said.

Other varsity golfers include senior Chase Collins, Daniel Caron and Jordan Hoch.

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