Girls have big divots to fill; boys look to recover | FALCON SPRING SPORTS PREVIEW

Grace Stringer, a Falcon junior golfer, watches a drive at Useless Bay Golf and Country Club.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Grace Stringer, a Falcon junior golfer, watches a drive at Useless Bay Golf and Country Club.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

A couple of strokes cost South Whidbey a top-three finish at the state 1A girls golf tournament last year, a banner season for the Falcons and head coach Tom Sage.

Three girls return from that varsity squad, which will help cover for the loss of several seniors who led South Whidbey to win team titles in the Cascade Conference, District 1, and tri-district tournaments. This season, South Whidbey’s girls golf team will play without a single senior on the roster, and will instead be bolstered by juniors Rosie Portillo, Grace Stringer and Meaghan de Wolf.

“There’s pressure to be that good,” Stringer said. “But with all that we lost, I’m not sure we can exceed it. Maybe next season.”

Nine girls turned out for the golf program, and only six are allotted varsity spots in tournaments and head-to-head meets. Along with coach Tom Sage, the team gets help from assistant coach Ron Eaton, volunteer Craig Moore, the operator of the Holmes Harbor Golf Course whose daughter Tarra is on the team, and Matt Portillo, Rosie’s father. Rosie Portillo, who qualified for the state tournament last season but failed to advance to the second day, said the quality of the freshmen will bolster the team.

“We have a lot of good people out,” she said. “We have at least three, maybe four, people who can get to tri-district and state.”

In a sport that heavily favors the specialized athlete, Portillo said she spent the offseason on several courses around Washington. She played in some tournaments, meeting other premier girl golfers in Washington. It gave her some perspective as to how she would have to improve in order to make a splash this season.

The boys, under head coach Steve Jones and assistant Jim Thompson, hope to build on last year’s squad. No Falcons made the tri-district, state-qualifying round, and the boys scores were often in the high-80s and 90s.

With 18 players registered for the boys golf team, Jones said he saw several talented freshmen enter the program this season.

“A lot of them seem to have some experience with golf, which makes me really happy,” Jones said.

Leading the young team are the program’s only seniors, John Rasmussen and Austin Drake, both four-year golfers at South Whidbey. Last year, Rasmussen started the season as the team’s top golfer. He quickly fell down the roster, however, and found himself at the third spot, which is not where he envisioned himself.

One of the keys to improving his game was shaving strokes from the short game, specifically putting. He said he practiced primarily on the putting green in the weeks leading to the season’s start, “making sure I’m getting the break.”


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