By Michael Carman
Peninsula Daily News
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A state tournament berth is the payoff for countless hours of practice for 11 North Olympic Peninsula high school boys golfers.
The Port Angeles boys team leads the way with four qualifiers for the 2A tournament, which will be played at Chambers Bay in University Place, the same layout that will crown a U.S. Open champion in June of 2015.
The Roughriders will be represented at state by Alex Atwell, Micah Needham, Mason Jackson and Austin Peterson.
Sequim has three competitors, all of them first-time state qualifiers: senior Jesse Francis, junior Travis Priest and sophomore Jack Shea.
Port Townsend junior Zack Glover and freshman Patrick Morton and Chimacum junior Jack Hilt and sophomore Chris Bainbridge will play in the 1A tournament at Lake Spanaway Golf Course.
“Playing at a U.S. Open venue is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, one they can always tell their families that they played a course that the pros contested a major on the following year,” Port Angeles coach Mark Mitrovich said.
Half of the Roughriders foursome has state experience at Chambers Bay.
Atwell finished in a tie for 29th overall as a sophomore and Needham missed the cut as a junior, as Port Angeles finished in fourth place as a team last year.
“They’ll have to learn to see no trees,” Mitrovich said of the wide-open layout, which boasts just one tree, a Douglas fir behind the 15th green.
“They’ll have to realize a wide open tee shot may not give you what you expect, and it will be more about the second and third shots and getting out of danger safely.”
Mitrovich has all of his players record their season goals during the preseason and Atwell and Needham have a chance to reach those goals at state.
“For Alex, he has talked about making the top 15, and for Micah it’s to make the cut and do well on the second day.”
Juniors Jackson and Peterson are making their first state appearances.
“The goals for Mason and Austin are to make the cut and contribute to a solid team score,” Mitrovich said.
“We want to come home with another trophy.”
The Riders finished fifth in 2012 and fourth last year.
Ephrata is the frontrunner for the team title with five state qualifiers, including defending individual champion Aaron Whalen, who shot rounds of 71 and 69 last year.
Port Angeles is tied for the second most qualifiers with Clarkston and Sumner, which also have four state players.
“I don’t want to put any extra pressure, but we always want to advance as many as possible to the second day, as the more you have playing the better chance you have at a title,” Mitrovich said.
“I’m hoping they enjoy the experience of playing a top-notch, high-quality course, can take it all in and realize making state is a reward for their seasons.”
For Sequim, Francis came on strong late in the season to qualify for state at the Olympic League tournament after shooting an 80 to tie with Atwell for third place.
Shea finished third in the Olympic League after posting a 39.9 scoring average per nine holes.
He was the seventh qualifier to state from the league event, edging out Priest in a playoff.
Priest rebounded to qualify for state after taking medalist honors with a 79 at the West Central District Tournament last week.
He averaged 43.3 per nine holes this season.
The 2A golfers will play Chambers Bay from the Sand tees, a 6,513-yard, par-72 layout.
Class 1A boys tourney
“I’d love to see them both make the cut and have a great experience so we can set it up to kick some butt in the Olympic League next year,” Chimacum coach Mitch Black said of Hilt and Bainbridge.
The Cowboys will be switching from the Nisqually to the Olympic for 2014-15.
“Everything has been a bit of a bonus for Chris. He has come on and played his best golf at the end of the year,” Black said.
“Jack has played like I have expected him to play; he’s matured more as a competitor this season.”
The Redskins will have junior Zack Glover and freshman Patrick Morton making their first state appearances.
“Lake Spanaway is not extremely tight but has huge trees,” Black said.
“If you get it in there you are forced to pitch out and have to rely on short games.”
Port Townsend and Chimacum will play from the course’s blue tees, a 6,601-yard, par-72 layout.
The two teams will encounter rebuilt greens on 13 holes.
The greens were victims of a soil-borne fungus called pythium root rot that took hold after a September rain storm.
Tee times for state golfers are available at tinyurl.com/pdn-teetimes.
Spectators are welcome to attend the tournaments and there is no admission fee.