It was the team South Whidbey senior boys golfer Thorin Helmersen always dreamed it could be.
The Falcon boys finished second in the class 1A state golf championships on May 24 at Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco behind champion Cle Elum-Roslyn. South Whidbey advanced more golfers to the second round — four — than any other team in class 1A and recorded its highest finish since 2008 when the Falcons placed third. The boys included Helmersen, senior Anton Klein, senior Ian Saunsaucie and junior Ryan Wenzek. All four placed in the top-30.
Head coach Steve Jones said the Falcons peaked at the right time.
“It’s just a testament to their persistence and their work ethic on the practice field and on the course,” Jones said. “They basically did all the little things that are needed to put together that performance at state.”
Helmersen, who finished 24th overall after shooting 83 the first day and 81 the second day, said he and his teammates had high expectations entering the tournament. But Helmersen still thought it was surreal to see their lofty goals of winning the championship nearly become reality. Cle Elum-Roslyn won 81-73.50 over the Falcons.
Klein was the boys highest finisher after placing 17th with a total of 160. He echoed Helmersen’s sentiments when he said that as a kid, he always hoped to be on the best South Whidbey team in the program’s history. Like most dreams as a kid, it was half in jest and lofty in nature, Klein said.
“But, this year we knew we had good players and we had to show up,” Klein said. “I think we all brought our ‘A’ game.”
The players said they didn’t expect all four of them to finish below the cut-off of 85 and reach the second round. Klein agreed, saying a bad round was certainly possible.
“It was a huge confidence boost because now the pressure was lifted of having to make the cut,” Klein said. “Now, we could just go out and play.”
Saunsaucie finished three strokes behind Klein in 21st place, while Wenzek placed 26th overall.
The Falcons performed through difficult conditions in the two-day tournament, especially during the first round when temperatures reached 97 degrees. In order to stay hydrated, the Falcons drank copious amounts of water during each hole. The players said their hydration efforts made a difference.
While the heat was an adversary for Klein, Helmersen and Saunsaucie, it had the opposite effect on Wenzek. Wenzek, who finished with a total of 167, said he “always” plays better in warmer conditions. Wenzek also said he was far more focused at state than in previous competitions. Instead of letting a bad hole effect his confidence, Wenzek was able to move past his mistakes and not concentrate on his final score.
“My mental game has improved a lot,” Wenzek said.
Jones was surprised by Wenzek’s poise despite it being his first trip to the state tournament. Jones said Wenzek transformed from a “bogey golfer” midway through a season and reduced his average 18-hole round of 90 by about eight strokes.
“He’s one of the key factors of the performance,” Jones said. “Without Ryan, we would have probably finished in 7th or 8th place.”
Jones attributed the team’s success to the player’s attention to detail, and their abilities to minimize their mistakes.
“As a coach, I couldn’t be more happy with the way they played,” Jones said. “Finishing second is just icing on the cake for me.”
The girls golf team also won its first state title in program history this past week. Junior Kolby Heggenes finished second place, while senior Riley Yale finished 25th.