After finishing runnerup to perennial 4A powerhouse Kamiak last spring, Redmond girls’ golf head coach Jake Crowley and his team came to Sudden Valley Golf Club in Bellingham determined to trade in their bridesmaid status for a state title.
As play concluded on Wednesday, the Mustangs did just that, finishing with 83 team points, defeating Bethel and Kamiak who had 75 and 71, respectively. The tournament started on Tuesday, with the final round on Wednesday.
Despite having won 57 consecutive 4A Kingco golf meets, the victory didn’t come easy, as the players were once again frowned upon by Mother Nature.
“The conditions out there were just brutal,” said Crowley. “The first day was as bad as you can get, it was a monsoon, and the rough was grown out. It’s probably the toughest course we’ve played in two years.”
The two-year coach added that the conditions gave big hitters a significant advantage, being that the course was already very long. The wet ground prohibited any extra roll on drives kept in the fairway, and also prevented girls that hit the ball a long ways from getting into trouble, such as rolling out-of-bounds or into a hazard.
“We’re not that long off the tee so we were at a big disadvantage,” admitted Crowley. “We were scrambling every hole, and that kind of wears you out.”
Redmond senior Mollie Johnsen, who finished second at last week’s district tournament, finished 16th with rounds of 86 and 84.
“Today she played great, shot 40 on the front nine,” said Crowley. “She was trying to grind it out, and just not getting some putts to fall. (Johnsen) hung in there… she was hoping for top 10 but it just didn’t happen.”
Redmond’s top golfer was junior Kara Zitzman, who shot “lights out” according to Crowley in the difficult conditions on Tuesday with a first-round 79 and was in a six-way tie for fifth place entering Wednesday’s final round.
Being among the leaders, Zitzman was paired up with Kamiak sophomore standout Seo Hee Moon, the defending state champion who many picked to win the tournament.
“Kara did pretty well finishing ninth overall. She bounced back today from three double bogeys in a row with three pars… we’re real proud of her,” said Crowley. “She was paired up with two very talented players, but she hung in with them and stayed in the top 10. She’s a real competitor.”
The mere fact that Redmond managed to win despite having their highest player finish ninth speaks volumes to the depth of the team and the program’s future.
“It was a team effort all the way,” said Crowley. “We don’t have any superstars, just a lot of really solid players. Golf can be very individualistic, but we have a team concept.”
That concept of team before player was seen most vividly in the actions of Redmond senior and team captain Taylor Conway, who failed to make the cut into Wednesday’s play. Although she wasn’t able to help the team further with her golf swing, she managed to rally some of the team’s freshmen golfers to come up to Bellingham and cheer on her teammates who were still in the tournament along with the 30-plus parents, friends and coaches that were in attendance.
Though Redmond is losing seniors Johnsen, Conway and Chelsea Smith, Crowley is optimistic that the high precedent and leadership example set by them will carry over into his undergraduate players.
“We’ll be pretty strong,” Crowley predicts. “Kara’s returning, Kelly O’Donnell is really coming into her own as a freshman, and we have Kelly Kennewick who placed sixth at districts, she’s really going to be a top player.
“And we have five freshmen that ‘got the golf bug.’”
If that bug is anywhere near as contagious as it has been for Redmond’s outstanding golf program, the Mustangs will continue to be a dominating force in 4A for many years to come.