South Whidbey senior girls golfer Riley Yale wasn’t too sure her score would hold up.
In wet and soggy conditions at the bi-district championships on Tuesday at Jackson Park Golf Course in Seattle, Yale finished with 106 strokes over 18 holes. She came up short of making it to state in three previous attempts, one of which was by just one stroke as a junior. This was her final chance to advance, and it would depend on the other golfers’ scores.
But, as other girls continued to finish their rounds, Yale stayed above the cutoff. Later, it became official: she advanced to the class 1A state championships on May 23 and 24 at Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco.
“It was definitely a relief,” Yale said. “…It feels like it’s meant to be almost. This is the best I’ve ever played, so I feel like it’s definitely deserved.”
Yale won’t be traveling alone; three of her teammates also qualified for state. They include junior Kolby Heggenes, senior Emily Turpin and sophomore Chloe Johnson, whose combined scores led the Falcons to a second place finish in the bi-district tournament.
Five Falcon boys golfers are also headed to Pasco, including seniors Thorin Helmersen, Anton Klein, Ian Saunsaucie, junior Ryan Wenzek and sophomore Gabe Jacobson-Ross. Jacobson-Ross is traveling as a state alternate after missing the cutoff by one stroke. The boys finished third as a team out of 11 teams.
The Falcon girls are the returning state runners-up after finishing behind King’s in 2016.
“I’m obviously hoping for the best,” head coach Garth Heggenes said. “We just hope we can all play well and bring it all together. I want them all to do well. It’s always better for the kids to have a positive experience. We may not win it, but as long as we play well I’m fine with it.”
Heggenes, last year’s state runner-up as an individual, had a less than desirable round at Jackson Park. She finished third place with an 89. Most of the damage to her scorecard was done because of poor putting.
“She actually struck the ball pretty well,” Garth Heggenes, Kolby’s father, said. “She just had a real issue on the green. I think she had close to 50 putts. If she would have knocked off about 10 to 12 putts, she would have been just fine.”
Heggenes was thankful that the bad round came the week before state. She has time to correct flaws in her technique.
“It was definitely not my best score and I definitely got really frustrated with myself,” Heggenes said. “…I just need to tune out everything else and kind of just focus on lining up the putt and not getting distracted.”
Turpin is making her second trip to state after qualifying last year as a first-year player. She finished seventh overall with a score of 105. Turpin said the score would have been acceptable last year, but she’s raised her level of expectations this season. She’s focused on her rhythm and routine in practice this week.
“That would good for me last year, but now I’m shooting 90s,” Turpin said. “I’ll hopefully break 90 (at state).”
Helmersen, who qualified for the 2016 state boys golf championships as well, led the Falcon boys with a score of 85. He tied for fifth place out of 45 players. Klein and Wenzek both shot 89 and tied for eighth overall. Saunsaucie finished 10th with a 91.
It will be the first trip to state for Wenzek, a second-year player.
“I’ve definitely improved a lot since last year,” Wenzek said. “It’s good to know I can play with kids who have been playing all their life.”
“Getting to state was my main goal,” he added.
The boys, who at the beginning of the season just hoped to win league matches, have their eyes set on a top-five finish at state.
“The whole dream when you’re growing up is to be on an incredibly talented team,” Helmersen said. “…I just had that feeling about this golf team, especially when Ryan joined us his sophomore year. I knew our senior year was going to be one to remember.”