By Michael Carman
Peninsula Daily News
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Lucky kids. The chance to win a title on the same fairways and greens that the 2015 U.S. Open champion will be crowned is such a great bonus prize.
In two months, a solid group of Port Angeles and Sequim boys golfers should head down to Chambers’ Narrows-nudging nines for the state tourney.
If its players play up to their potential, Chimacum’s boys team will compete a few miles south for the 1A title at Lake Spanaway Golf Course in Spanaway.
The North Olympic Peninsula’s boys high school golf teams are deep as ever this year, words I heard from three area high school coaches.
Port Angeles in class 2A and Chimacum in 1A are deep enough to seriously merit consideration as a top-five team at this point in the season.
Let’s see what happens with two more months of practice ahead of them.
I’ll have girls golf previews for Sequim and Port Angeles next week.
My hat is off to the coaches for their hard work with their charges and the area courses.
Coach: Mark Mitrovich, 27th year.
Last year: The Roughriders finished second in league, and have two returners who placed at the 2012 2A state tournament: Olympic League MVP Joey Barnes (sixth), led the event after the first day; and Garrett Payton finished 31st.
Overall, Port Angeles finished fifth as a team at state.
Top returners: Joey Barnes, sr.; Garrett Payton, sr.; Alex Atwell, so.; Austin Underwood, sr.; Alex Brown, jr.; Micah Needham, soph.; Mason Jackson, soph.
Top newcomers: Trey Hoover, jr.
Outlook: Port Angeles is in the process of reaching three team goals: repeat as Port Ludlow Invitational champions; win an Olympic League championship, and the loftiest goal of all, achieve a top-three finish at state.
An overarching goal “to have fun doing it” was added, and is stressed at practices, by Roughriders coach Mark Mitrovich.
Barnes, the Riders No. 1, “outworks everybody,” Mitrovich said.
He’s solid in the classroom (I know from writing news briefs on his achievements), manages diabetes, practices before school and even works up at Peninsula Golf Club.
The only limitation in his game is something he can control: the “experience and maturity that come with playing competitive rounds and being under the gun,” according to Mitrovich.
Barnes, you see, is only in his second season of tournament golf.
“Each hole he plays he gets better,” Mitrovich said.
Riders No. 2 Garrett Payton has the easy swing of Ernie Els and the potential to take scores low, as witnessed by the 65 he shot in a late-season practice round last year at Peninsula.
“He’s been spending more time after practice working on his chipping and putting,” Mitrovich said.
“I really see him wanting it more this season.”
Sophomore Alex Atwell is “hitting the ball farther and has physically matured over the last year,” Mitrovich said.
“He’s pounding the ball this year, hitting the wedge 140 yards.”
Other Rider contributors include Austin Underwood, newcomer Trey Hoover, Mason Jackson and Micah Needham.
Coach: Bill Shea (second year, second stint as head coach).
Last year: Sequim won the Olympic League, edging rival Port Angeles. No returning players advanced past districts in 2012.
Top Returners: Anthony Pinza, jr.; Travis Priest, so.; Jesse Francis, jr.; Matt Kays, sr.
Top Newcomers: Jack Shea, fr.; Ty Jones, fr.
Outlook: Sequim is a talented but young team, with just one senior and a host of underclassmen.
After some early season returns, defending their league title may look like a long shot now, but the Wolves have more than a month of practices and matches before hosting Port Angeles at Cedars at Dungeness on April 30.
Sequim may not boast a dominant No. 1 player like Port Angeles’ Barnes or Olympic’s Trent Ferris, but Pinza is capable of consistently scoring in the high seventies over 18 holes.
Pinza’s scores should only get better as he shakes off any rust associated from his time with the Wolves sixth-place state basketball team.
“We have two things that stand out for us, youth and depth,” said coach Bill Shea.
“Our guys in the two through six spots are all capable of shooting in the low to mid 40s.”
Travis Priest has assumed the Wolves No. 2 spot this year, and through Tuesday is narrowly leading the team with a 43 average to Pinza’s 43.3.
Shea’s son Jack, a freshman, has been steady in the third spot, averaging 45.7 over nine holes.
The elder Shea believes Port Angeles to be the top of the Olympic League, but likes having them at home late in the season.
“Each year as a coach, I’ve seen tremendous growth from my teams from week to week as the season progresses,” Shea said.
“I think our top four guys have the capability to make a run at the state tournament.”
Coach: Gabe Tonan, 11th year.
Last year: Port Townsend had low numbers in 2012, with only three players out for the boys team and one girls player, Riley Fukano.
Top returners: Harry Doyle, jr.; Grayson Pennell, jr.; Riley Fukano, so.
Top newcomers: Zack Glover, so.; Jack Bishop, Jr.
Outlook: Another rebuilding year for the Redskins.
Players have been scoring in the high 40s, low to mid 50s and low 60s for nine holes in early matches.
With lots of room for improvement as the season wears on, I would think the Redskins should be able to shave some strokes down by May.
Coach: Mitch Black, 36th year.
Last year: 6-1 and won the Nisqually League meet. The Cowboys finished ninth as a three-man team at the Class 1A state tournament.
State participants included Kevin Miller (missed cut), Riley Downs (29th) and Nathan Browning (35th).
Top returners: Nathan Browning, sr.; Riley Downs, jr.; Kevin Miller, sr.; Jack Hilt, so.; Cole Lovekamp, sr (returns after a taking a year off), Dan Rassmussen, jr.
Top newcomers: James Porter, Justin Taylor, Marcus Bufford.
Outlook: A veteran-laden squad, Chimacum should repeat as Nisqually League champions for the fourth straight year, and has the potential to qualify up to five athletes through districts for the state tournament.
“We have more depth than I have had in years because our top five is so solid,” Black said.
“I think we can be right there with [perennial state championship contender] Ilwaco.”
With all Nisqually League competitions only nine holes, Black has back-ended the schedule with some 18-hole events to get his charges ready for 18-hole postseason play.
“I tend to think playing nine holes all season tends to leave us unprepared for districts and state, so I try and beef the schedule a bit some 18-hole events.”
Newcomers will compete for the team’s sixth spot in varsity matches and experience for next year.
Golf columnist Michael Carman can be reached at 360-417-3527 or email@example.com.