“Let ‘er rip!”
Those were the enthusiastic words of Lake Washington High girls golf coach Shane O’Brien prior to the hole-one tee off at last week’s match between the Kangs and Juanita High’s linksters at Bellevue Golf Course.
Nine holes to come on a sunny afternoon — go for it.
When all the strokes were tallied, LW came away victorious by a 219-287 count and Kang freshman Kaitlyn Uhrich earned medalist honors with a five-over 40.
Game faces, solid shots, smiles, laughs and camaraderie were abundant on the course on April 26. At one point on the second hole, Juanita junior Ellery Pridgen had a question about her ball’s lie and called over LW senior Grace Hawkins to discuss the situation. Another time, Hawkins chuckled while trying to locate her ball near the second green, eventually finding it thanks to the Reporter’s help.
Along the way, the girls were driven by support from all the players, coaches and parents walking the course.
“I’d say it’s a friendly rivalry in golf, at least,” said LW junior Hayley Hopkins. “The girls are great from both teams. We just try and have fun. We give advice if people ask, we’re happy to help if someone doesn’t know the course super well. We want everyone to have a good round.”
Added Pridgen: “At the end of the day, we’re all kind of going through the same thing, we all wanna help each other out. I like golf because it’s not so much that you’re competing against the other people, it’s sort of that you’re competing against yourself, so it’s not such a crime to help out your fellow teammate.”
Hawkins said playing in the sunshine helps as does clearing one’s mind when the match begins and before each shot.
“I’m always in my head. Just take it one shot at a time, and if you have a bad shot, just shake it off and just keep hittin’,” she said. Hawkins hit a 45 last week, just one stroke over her personal best.
Juanita sophomore Katherine Gu registered a personal best against LW, dropping her stroke count from 58 to 51. Gu said she ran into trouble playing in the rain earlier in the season, but that wasn’t the case last week.
“Today it was nice and sunny and the teammates were very encouraging. Overall, it was just a lot better,” she said.
Hopkins said it’s all about staying positive, brushing off a bad shot or mood and trying to improve by round’s end. She shot a 54 last week.
Pridgen — who hit a 53 last week, three strokes more than her personal best — said patience is key as well as not letting past mistakes haunt golfers. Think about your plan, but don’t think about it too much, she said with a laugh.
“It can be a very tense sport, but I think as long as you’re patient and relax, it can be pretty chill,” Pridgen said, adding that she feels proud of her accomplishment after finishing each round.
As for LW senior Molly Behrends, who finished 11th at state last year, she’s enjoying guiding freshmen Uhrich and Makena Pluth (who scored 43 last week) through their initial season and hopes they can qualify for state as a team.
Behrends, who shot a 45 last week, has learned life lessons during her four years on the Kang golf squad, mostly not dwelling on a bad shot and moving on to the next challenge.
She feels her LW career has come full circle, from seniors taking her under their wing to her doing the same for the newcomers.
“I was talking to one of our golfers who graduated two years ago, and I was like, ‘I’m driving two of them around now,’” Behrends said of the newbies.
Next up for the golfers is the 2A/3A KingCo Medalist Tournament on May 8 at Snohomish Golf Course, the 3A SeaKing Tournament on May 15 at Riverbend Golf Course in Kent and the state tourney on May 22-23 at Indian Canyon Golf Course in Spokane.