By Michael Carman
Peninsula Daily News
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A blessing if you have a repeatable swing that can get you through a round and home safely, a curse if you are doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again during play.
The good kind of consistency is what our area high school golf coaches attempt to impart each spring.
Members of the Port Angeles and Chimacum boys golf teams took those lessons to heart last season, taking home Olympic League and Nisqually League championships, respectively.
Coaching consistency, i.e. having the same coach doing the instruction each year also is a big part of a program's success.
Teams that go through coaches like the University of Oregon athletic teams go through uniforms typically struggle.
That's why it's nice to see coaches stick around and last for decades like Mitch Black at Chimacum (37 years); Mark Mitrovich at Port Angeles (28 years) and Gabriel Tonan at Port Townsend (14th year).
Sequim coach Bill Shea is the relative newcomer at four years, which by Peninsula coaching standards counts as a long time.
Good luck to the teams this season and thanks to the courses that help to grow the game for junior golfers.
Port Angeles boys
■ Coach: Mark Mitrovich, 28th year.
■ Last year: The Roughriders were undefeated Olympic League champions (8-0) and finished fourth overall at the Class 2A state championship.
It was the best finish in Mitrovich's long tenure as the Port Angeles head coach.
Departed senior Joe Barnes, a two-time Olympic League MVP, finished in a tie for 15th place to pace the Riders, while fellow senior Garrett Payton tied for 25th and current junior Alex Atwell tied for 29th.
Departed senior Austin Underwood and current senior Micah Needham advanced to state but missed the cut.
■ Top returners: Atwell is the Port Angeles No. 1, shooting in the mid to high 30s in practice and carding a 39 in the team's opening match victory over Kingston last week at White Horse Golf Club.
“Alex hits the ball a long ways, really steady and he works at Peninsula Golf Club so he played a lot during the offseason,” Mitrovich said.
“He has good touch around the greens and can roll [putt] the ball really well.”
Needham has worked on his short game in the offseason and is capable of shooting in the 30's.
“He's fired up to get back to state, make the second round and place,” Mitrovich said.
Other returners include juniors Alex Brown and Mason Jackson.
Brown is a lanky 6-foot- 3 player who “has been coming on lately,” according to Mitrovich.
Jackson was described as the team's most improved player so far this year going from scoring in the mid-90s to the mid 80s and becoming a “likely suspect for state,” Mitrovich said.
“He worked a lot on his chipping and his swing is just much smoother, it's a night and day difference.”
■ Top Newcomers: Austin Peterson, jr.; Avery Koehler, sr.; Koben Temres, fr.; Devun Wahlsten, fr.; Tyler Nickerson, fr; Logan Kovelenko, fr; Royce Duncan, fr.; Ben Arnold, fr.
“I have several newer players that want to stay late at the course until 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. so they are seeing the work ethic our older players have and are feeding off of that and they know what they need to do [to improve],” Mitrovich said.
■ Outlook: Topping last season isn't something this year's Roughriders are concerned with.
Instead, the team is focusing on its goal to repeat as Olympic League champs.
Mitrovich described the team strength as being medium to long hitters but said the squad needs to focus on accuracy to reach its goal.
If the players can play up to their potential, a league title is a possibility and multiple Riders should make it to state.
“Getting two or more players to the second day at state would be great, see if we can get a place as a team and get after it,” Mitrovich said.
■ Coach: Cedars at Dungeness director of golf, Bill Shea, fourth year.
■ Last year: 5-3, third in Olympic League.
Jesse Francis made it to districts last year.
■ Top Returners: Jack Shea, so.; Anthony Pinza, sr.; Travis Priest, jr.; Anthony Francis, sr.; Alex McCracken, jr.; Henry Markham, sr.
Shea started making the leap late last season and continued his improvement in the offseason.
“He was out there pretty much every day in the offseason working on all aspects of his game,” Bill Shea said of his son.
“He shot a 1-under-par 71 at Cedars at Dungeness this summer and that really lit the fire in him.”
The younger Shea worked the most on his course management and his short game and it's already paying off: he posted a 1-over-par 37 in competition against Bremerton last week on the Olympic Course at Gold Mountain.
Pinza, who filled the point guard position for the Wolves basketball team, has “incredible potential in his game,” Shea said, adding that Pinza should get his scoring average to around 80 for 18 holes.
“He's a great competitor and just needs to work his way through the shot, go one swing at a time and not worry about results.”
Priest is a good driver of the ball and Shea described him as “an aggressive player who needs to work on playing a little bit safer.”
Francis made it to districts last year and is dialing in his game early this season.
■ Top Newcomers: Arnold Black, so.; Jade Arnold, fr.; Connor Titterness, fr.; Logan Bennett, fr.
Black and Arnold have already played in varsity matches for the Wolves as Shea opens up the fifth and sixth varsity positions for qualifying before matches.
■ Outlook: “We think we have a legit shot at winning league and I think we could bring 4-5 players to state,” Shea said.
Sequim has solid depth and if it can get its 4-5-6 players shooting around 42 to 47 per nine, a league title isn't out of the cards.
Shea thinks a late-season matchup with Port Angeles “will likely determine the league championship.”
Port Townsend boys
■ Coach: Gabriel Tonan, 14th season.
■ Last year: Redskins won one league match in a rebuilding year.
■ Top returners: Jack Bishop, sr.; Zach Glover, jr.; Austin Khile, so.; Keegan Khile, so.; Ben Rolland, so.
Bishop has it in him to shoot in the 70's per Tonan.
Glover has a “weird looking putting stroke but he seems to make them,” Tonan said.
He'll need to work on what Tonan described as “a little truck in his swing” this season.
■ Top newcomers: Lucas Foster, so.; Patrick Morton, fr.
Foster is 6-foot-2 and “with a little work he can be a player,” Tonan said.
Morton needs to work on his consistency but has some game.
“I've seen him shoot 39 and seen him shoot 50 so far,” Tonan said.
■ Outlook: Tonan is focusing on guiding his players over the humps in their golf games.
“There are benchmarks in golf like breaking 90 for the first time and then there can be plateaus that follow but I want to focus on making the tweaks these guys need to get over the hump to achieve the next goal,” Tonan said.
His team is still pretty youthful with Bishop the lone senior, so improving every match and building the players' games for the future is in the cards this season for Port Townsend.
■ Coach: Mitch Black, 37th year.
■ Last year: Nisqually League champions after an undefeated league season and a tied-for-sixth place finish at the Class 1A state tournament.
Departed senior Kevin Miller finished in a three-way tie for eighth.
■ Top returners: Jack Hilt, jr.; Dan Rasmussen, jr.; Marcus Bufford, home-schooled; James Porter, so.
■ Top newcomers: Chris Bainbridge, so.; Brandon Naylor, jr.
■ Outlook: Cowboys are rebuilding this season having lost their top four players from last season's team.
That said, don't be surprised if Chimacum surprises and finishes high up in the standings and if Hilt places at state.
Golf columnist Michael Carman can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5152 or firstname.lastname@example.org.