By Michael Carman
Peninsula Daily News
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Micah Needham, senior, Port Angeles —Won the 2014 Olympic League Championship. A two-time state qualifier. Teamed with Atwell to win Duke Streeter Invitational.
Austin Peterson, junior, Port Angeles — Transfer student fit in nicely, helping Port Angeles to second place in Olympic League. Led team at state after finishing T-29th.
Jack Shea, sophomore, Sequim — Third in Olympic League in scoring average at 39.9. T-15th at prestigious Egbers Invitational and qualified for first state tournament.
Jack Hilt, junior, Chimacum — Averaged a 38 in Nisqually League play. Finished T-7th at Tri-Districts to make his first state tournament appearance for Cowboys.
Patrick Morton, freshman, Port Townsend — Averaged 46.5 for season. Finished 11th at Tri-Districts to qualify for state tournament. Finished T-31st at Class 1A State Tournament at Lake Spanaway.
Coach of the Year: Mark Mitrovich, Port Angeles — In his 28th year at the helm, his Roughriders finished second in the Olympic League and had four players qualify for the Class 2A State Tournament at Chambers Bay. Port Angeles placed ninth overall at state.
Atwell had a terrific junior year, leading all golfers on the North Olympic Peninsula and finishing second overall in the Olympic League in scoring average per nine holes at 38.5.
He earned match medalist honors shooting the lowest round in seven of eight league matches including a one-over-par 73 against Sequim at Peninsula Golf Club, and won the Duke Streeter Invitational with teammate Micah Needham in a playoff.
Atwell qualified for his second straight Class 2A State Tournament after finishing tied for third at the Olympic League Championship.
He shot his lowest-ever round at state, an 83 in the first round, finishing tied for 33rd in tough conditions, after dealing with a broken driver just before he teed off at the Class 2A tournament at Chambers Bay.
Loves to compete
“Deep down he loves to compete,” said longtime Roughriders boys golf coach Mark Mitrovich.
“He has a strong belief in his ability, an inner confidence, and I feel he believes in himself when he steps out on the course.”
The two-man team event is all about converting opportunities and posting a low score.
Atwell and Needham shared the scoring load pretty equally, but Atwell's shotmaking skills shined on two par-3 holes.
Needham skulled his drive on the par-3 ninth so Atwell needed to come through and at least knock it close to the green.
With the pressure on, Atwell calmly struck his tee shot to within 1 feet 11 inches of the cup, collecting the birdie and later pocketing a sleeve of Titleist Pro V1 golf balls as a closest to the pin prize after the round.
Later, with the pressure on during the second hole of a playoff with a duo from Shelton, Atwell hit his tee shot even closer to the pin on the par-3 17th hole, and Needham tapped in for a birdie and the individual group title.
“He just stuffed it in there on 17 and that really showed how his confidence has grown,” Mitrovich said.
“That's the type of shot a great player can make, and now he has that memory in his mind to further establish that belief in himself.”
Atwell called that day, where he played along with a good friend in Needham and was followed by a small but supportive group of family and friends, as the highlight of his season.
“Oh sure, especially with that shot in the end,” Atwell said.
“It was just a fun day, we had a good gallery watching us and we played really well.”
Atwell started with the game early, heading out to Peninsula Golf Club with his grandfather, Doug Wickham, a Peninsula Golf Club member who died a few years ago.
“I started out at three years old going out at Peninsula with Grandpa,” Atwell said.
“I kept coming back because I really enjoyed the time we spent together and looked up to him.”
Atwell even incorporated his grandfather's swing into his own game.
“He has his own grooved swing that he learned from his grandfather,” Mitrovich said.
“His grip is really strong and it looks like he should be hitting snap hooks all the time, but he controls it.”
As a fellow member of Peninsula, Mitrovich was acquainted with Wickham.
“His grandpa would be proud to see how he has progressed as a player,” Mitrovich said.
Atwell has shown steady improvement each year in his high school career.
“His average was in the upper 80s as a freshman and he cut that to 81 as sophomore, and now to 77 as a junior,” Mitrovich said.
“Next year, I see him shooting around par each time out.
Mitrovich had more praise for Atwell's role as co-captain of the team.
“He's never down, never negative, and I know he's always giving every shot his full attention and never hitting a half-hearted shot,” Mitrovich said.
“He shows his leadership with his play and with etiquette.”
Cutting five more strokes off his average won't be easy, but Mitrovich feels Atwell is entirely capable.
“Golf is like a puzzle without all the pieces, and it's when you combine the pieces, driving, putting, chipping and iron play, then you can really succeed.”
“Alex is very close.”
A key to completing the puzzle is practice.
Atwell, who works picking range balls and cleaning carts at Peninsula, makes sure to utilize a perk of employment, free golf.
“I just enjoy the atmosphere up there,” Atwell said of Peninsula Golf Club.
He mentioned the growth in his short game this season as being a by-product of his time at course.
“After work I like to go out and take a bucket and hit chip shots from spots on the course,” Atwell said.
“That helps when I'm playing competitively because I've already hit those shots and I have an idea of how the ball might react.”
Future career in golf?
His future may include even more time at golf courses, as Atwell is interested in making a career out of the game.
“I'm going to try to go to college and pursue golf,” Atwell said.
“Honestly, working as a course superintendent or a pro, that would be cool to see where the game can take me.”