SEQUIM — Before the girls golf season started, Sequim coach Garrett Smithson had his team go through a visioning exercise, writing down personal and team goals his Wolves would work toward this spring and placing them in an envelope not to be opened until season’s end.
Smithson opened them Tuesday and was pleased to see Sequim’s Sarah Shea had exceeded what she set out to accomplish in her senior season.
“Her individual goal was a top-10 finish at state,” Smithson said. “That makes me feel even better that she achieved her goals.”
Shea capped a three-season run of state tournament finishes with a career-best tie for fifth at the Class 2A State Golf Championship at Horn Rapids Golf Course in Richland late last month.
She also won the Olympic League Girls Golf MVP award with an average of 38.55 strokes per nine holes, nearly two full shots better than her junior season, and won the Olympic League Golf Championship on her home course, the Cedars at Dungeness.
And she also signed to play golf for the Western Washington University women’s team.
For these accomplishments, Shea also has been selected as the All-Peninsula Girls Golf MVP by the sports staff of the Peninsula Daily News.
“I would say Sarah’s ball striking from tee to green is as good as I’ve seen,” Smithson said.
High praise from a pro who’s seen some great players. But Smithson should know, he’s helped Shea grow her game since 2006, as Shea’s dad Bill, is the director of golf and general manager at Cedars at Dungeness.
Both Smithson and Sarah Shea point to her tie for 15th place at state as a sophomore as a turning point in her career.
“She was a multi-sport athlete like Jack [her brother, a former All-Peninsula Golf MVP] and her sophomore year at state she careered it [shot her best-ever round] by a long shot and really knew golf was her thing,” Smithson said.
A glance at the leaderboard after the first round was a revelation, Shea said.
“I started realizing where I was [as a player,” she said. “I had a pretty average day the first day and was in the top 20, so it was eye opening to realize I had made that much improvement in two seasons. It was pretty surreal for me and that moment sparked more determination and drive to keep improving.
“After that year I realized I was a late bloomer in high school golf and if I wanted to play at a higher level I needed to make improvements in my game.”
Shea put in the work, before and after school, while also being careful not to neglect her academics.
“Improvements don’t come easily in golf, they take time to see,” she said. “I would go and practice before school at 6 a.m. And that self-determination drove me to make improvements as well as the coaching from my dad and Garrett.
“Even though it was time consuming, I was still able to manage [golf and school work] properly and I’m just as proud of my GPA (3.9) as I am of my golf.”
Shea’s best round of the season, a 2-under-par 34, came early in the season at home against Port Townsend.
Solid rounds continued the rest of the season and Shea was rewarded with a first-round pairing with defending [and eventual] champion and Washington State University-commit Kenedee Peters.
“It was fun to watch her play, she doesn’t mis-hit the ball very much,” Shea said.
“The layout at state was pretty rough, target golf, not a lot of room for misses.”
But that style of play suited Shea’s ability to locate her shots.
“I didn’t leave myself too much trouble. I kind of avoided that with my ball striking,” she said.
And Shea said she will continue to hone her game in preparation for the transition to college golf.
“[Putting and the mental aspect of golf] Those two things right there, dialing those in and looking at every little piece will help me shave off a few strokes,” she said.
All-Peninsula Girls Golf Team
MVP — Sarah Shea, sr., Sequim: Olympic League MVP led league by nearly five strokes with a 38.55 scoring average per nine holes. Won Olympic League Championship and finished tied for fifth at state, her best finish after placing 15th as a sophomore and 22nd as a junior. Will play golf at Western Washington University.
Samantha Smith, sr., Sequim: Trimmed three-plus strokes off her 2017 average and finished sixth overall in Olympic League (47.82 shots per nine holes). Qualified for state golf tournament.
Mackenzie Lake, soph., Port Townsend: Second among Olympic League 1A golfers with a 50.82 scoring average. Won Olympic League MVP after winning 1A league championship. Finished 19th at 1A state, her second-straight state place.
Maddie Uranga, soph., Sequim: Wolves most improved golfer trimmed eight shots off her 2017 scoring average to 52.18 and was shooting in the mid 40’s by end of season.