Through rain, hail, thunder and lightning, consistency was the name of South Whidbey golfer Rosie Portillo’s game at the state 1A championship Thursday.
Between the first and second rounds May 28-29, Portillo shot first an 87 followed by an 88. Of the top 10 golfers, only one had a more consistent score than Portillo. Playing steady each day paid off as she ended in sixth place, the best South Whidbey finish since 2002, even if she surprised herself.
“I was stunned at how well everything turned out,” said Portillo, a junior.
There were plenty of struggles along the way. On Day 1, a sprinkle turned into rain that became a shower that condensed into hail. Portillo, thinking quickly, grabbed the pin from the cup and used the flag to cover her head.
“It was like fog it was so thick,” she said.
It was also an opportunity for her to stick to her strength of driving and get ahead of the competition.
“This was my time to come out,” Portillo said.
More than the elements, she had to battle several of her own bad shots. Sand traps proved a formidable foe on the ninth hole on Day 2, when she launched her first shot into one trap bordering the green, then chipped out only to hit into the other, then wedged onto the green, then back into a hazard.
“She left some putts hanging out there,” said Falcon coach Tom Sage, who added that Portillo could have shaved strokes with a better short game. “But everybody can.”
For all of the difficult tees, she had more that went smoothly, even surprisingly so. Needing four strokes to get on the fifth hole’s green, Portillo nailed a 45-foot putt to make par. There was also the 13th hole in the second round when she had a hundred-yard drive, hit behind a couple of low-branched trees, then chipped between them about seven feet from the pin. She sank the putt.
“For the most part, I took chances,” she said.
Playing risky was a necessity. Some of the best competition in the tournament came from the Falcon’s league, the Cascade Conference. Four of the top seven golfers at Lake Spanaway Golf Course played for King’s, Coupeville and South Whidbey. Hannah Roh and Charis Tsai of King’s placed fourth and seventh, respectively. Coupeville junior Christine Fields finished two strokes ahead of Portillo for fifth place.
Portillo continued a long line of Falcon girl golfers at the state tournament for Sage and South Whidbey. He thanked Useless Bay Golf and Country Club for being South Whidbey’s home course. Not one to accept credit, he praised the work of assistant coach Ron Eaton and volunteer Craig Moore, owner of Holmes Harbor Golf Course.
“I’m surrounded by really good people that make it work,” Sage said.
The high school season may be over, but there’s course time ahead for Portillo. Following in the footsteps of state-caliber Falcon golfers before her, she said she would continue to play this summer and planned to enter a few tournaments to keep a competitive edge.
“These girls gave me the mindset to get through this stuff,” Portillo said of former teammates like Jenna Kaik, Chelsey Schultz and Hannah Cotton.
“I’ll still be working,” she added.
Lauryn Keating of Elma High School won the tournament title with 151 strokes, keeping Goldendale’s Bree Wandersheid from her third consecutive championship by one stroke. King’s won the team title with two golfers in the top eight places. Only two other schools, Highland and Seattle Academy, had a shot at the team title because they had two golfers in the second round.