MICHAEL CARMAN’S GOLF COLUMN: Area features top prep golfers

THE TITLE OF the late, great soul singer Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” has proven prophetic for Olympic League High School golf.

A change in scoring has arrived for 2011, with the league, one of the last in the state to use a modified Stableford scoring system, switching over to stroke play.

It’s not true stroke play, however, as players can still pick up after reaching double-par on a hole (i.e., reaching six strokes on a par 3 or eight on a par 4) but the switch will bring about a truer sense of each golfer’s ability.

Six players form a team, with the top five scores counting in head-to-head matchups between the schools.

With the benefit of being able to look at results from some opening matches, I would have to give Port Townsend and Sequim the nod as favorites for the Olympic League boys title with young and talented Port Angeles as a dark horse for the top spot.

North Kitsap’s Troy Means, a former Central Kitsap player who spent last season working on his game in La Quinta, Calif., is the early favorite for League MVP.

He shot a 35 at White Horse Golf Course in Kingston during a nine-hole contest last week, an almost unheard of score on that beast of a course.

Means will have competition from Port Townsend’s Cody Piper, Sequim’s Ryan O’Mera and Port Angeles’ Jordan Negus.

On the girls side, even without graduated standout Zoei Zbaraschuk, I favor Sequim’s experience to retain the Olympic League title.

Sequim Senior Kim Duce and Port Townsend senior Jenny Grauberger should battle it out for league MVP.

Following are capsules for the North Olympic Peninsula teams.

Boys
Port Angeles (2A)

■ Head coach: Mark Mitrovich.

■ Returners: Jordan Negus (So.); Garrett Payton (So.); Bryan Schlinkmann (So.); Austin Underwood (So.); Ben Wetzler (Sr.)

■ Top newcomers: N/A

■ Player to watch: Jordan Negus.

■ Outlook: Last year was a rebuilding season for the Roughriders, with four freshmen playing prominent roles on the varsity.

A year later, the team has matured into a contender for the Olympic League crown.

Port Angeles has five players who can consistently shoot in the 40s, with Negus, Payton and Schlinkmann capable of playing near par.

Prediction: Third in Olympic League.

Sequim (2A)

■ Head coach: Vic Quinet.

■ Returners: Ryan O’Mera (Jr.); Mallory Maloney (Sr.); Ezra Perkins (Sr.); Casey Torres (Sr.); Josh Francis (Sr.); Brendon Hudson (So.)

■ Top newcomers: Jesse Francis (Fr.); and Anthony Pinza (Fr.)

■ Player to watch: Ryan O’Mera. “A two or three handicap, O’Mera is an explosive golfer who can shoot some really low scores when he’s on,” said Vic Quinet.

“He’ll be a college golfer for sure; he has that ability.”

■ Outlook: Sequim has depth and experience in its favor, with 2010 state tournament participants O’Mera and Maloney leading the way.

The Wolves’ top four are pretty much set with O’Mera, Maloney, Perkins and Torres leading the way.

Freshmen Jesse Francis and Pinza will compete with Josh Francis and Hudson for the team’s final two positions.

Quinet is seeking an 82-83 average for his players on 18 holes and believes his team can achieve that goal, provided his players focus on course management and working on their short games.

“They have the ability [to perform at a high level] but its a matter of trying to avoid doing things they think they can do mentally but maybe aren’t ready to do physically,” Quinet said.

“Maybe you can’t loft that 8-iron through those branches and should take a soft 7-iron instead, that kind of thing.”

Quinet believes golf is a transitional game for teenagers, and getting them to realize that 80 to 85 percent of their total score occurs within 150 yards of the hole is paramount.

“We’re getting them the discipline to practice the chipping and putting and focusing many of our drills from 150 yards and in.”

Prediction: Combination of experience and skill gives Sequim the nod for first place in the Olympic League.

Port Townsend (1A)

■ Head coach: Gabriel Tonan.

■ Returners: Cody Piper (So.); Jake vonVolkli (Jr.); Sean Anderson (Sr.); Gabe Hensley (Jr.); Ben Reinhart (Sr.).

■ Top newcomers: N/A

■ Player to watch: Cody Piper. “He’s in the driver’s seat right now as the team’s No. 1 player,” Tonan said.

■ Outlook: Port Townsend returns three of its four state tournament participants from last season in Piper, Anderson and Hensley.

The team is competitive and has a good mix of upperclassmen and experienced and talented youngsters.

“I think this year’s team will do well during the season and I’m looking forward to postseason play,” Tonan said.

Prediction: Port Townsend has done well in its opening matches, posting wins over North Mason and Bremerton.

Competition will stiffen during the rest of the season but I think the Redskins will compete for an Olympic League title and will send enough players to the 1A state tournament to compete for a team trophy.

Girls
Port Angeles (2A)

■ Head coach: Beth Krause.

■ Returners: Madison Baumann (Sr.).

■ Top newcomers: Dana Fox (Fr.) and Sydney Rauch (Fr.).

■ Player to watch: Baumann will be counted on to provide leadership for a young Riders squad.

■ Outlook: Krause takes over a young team from departed coach Mike DuPuis.

Many of the players are playing golf for the first time.

“What’s great about these kids is they enjoy being out there playing and they have all shown a desire to get better,” Krause said.

“They were having fun playing in the rain [during a win against Klahowya on Monday] and I liked seeing that.”

Prediction: Third in Olympic League.

Sequim (2A)

■ Head coach: Garrett Smithson.

■ Returners: Kim Duce (Sr.); Hailey Estes (Jr.); Lisa Doan (Sr.)

■ Top newcomers: Elisa Sallee (So.); Annika Lawrence (So.); Maddy Fisher (Fr.); Vanessa Martinez (Fr.).

■ Player to watch: Duce is a three-time state participant and letter winner.

■ Outlook: Duce and Estes made last year’s state tournament and Dorn was a solid contributor to the Wolves’ Olympic League Championship in 2010.

There’s no Zoei Zbaraschuk beating teams single-handedly this year but Sequim is still talented enough to compete for a repeat title.

“I feel we have a good chance to do so [win the Olympic League],” Smithson said.

“Most of the teams in league are rebuilding and we have a solid top three players that have a lot of experience.”

Prediction: If Sequim can get some assistance from its 4-6 players, another first-place finish in the Olympic League is not out of the question.

Port Townsend (1A)

■ Head coach: Gabriel Tonan.

■ Returners: Jenny Grauberger (Sr.)

■ Top newcomers: N/A

■ Player to watch: Grauberger. “I’m really looking forward to seeing what she does this year,” Tonan said.

■ Outlook: Grauberger, Port Townsend’s lone female golfer, finished sixth in state last season.

She’s taken match medalist honors in early competition this season and should compete for league MVP.

Prediction: Grauberger qualifies for her third state tournament and comes home with a top-five finish.

Bust-a-gut at SkyRidge

SkyRidge Golf Course of Sequim will hold its annual “Gut Buster” Tournament on Saturday.

Swing from the hips in this one as male players will play the black tees at 6,710 yards while the ladies will take a crack at 6,070 yards of golf course.

Players will receive golf, range balls, lunch, entry into a honey pot, four KP holes and a long-putt competition on the 18th hole.

Cost for this individual medal-play tourney is $55 per person.

For more information, phone the course at 360-683-3673.

Kiwanis benefit on tap

Port Townsend Golf Club will host the annual Kiwanis Two-Person Best Ball Tournament with proceeds supporting kids with special needs, youth projects and scholarships.

The tournament will kick off with a shotgun start at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Cost is $40 per player with only a $5 greens fees charge for nonmembers.

This is a really good cause folks, take them up on it!

Spring break clinic

Junior golfers can get a crack at learning the ins and outs of the game during a Spring Break Golf Clinic taught by Port Townsend assistant pro/high school golf coach Gabriel Tonan.

The clinic will be held from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on April 5-7.

Cost is $30 for all three days or $10 per day.

Phone the course at 360-385-4547 for more information.

_______

Michael Carman is the golf columnist for the Peninsula Daily News. He can be reached at 360-417-3527 or at pdngolf@gmail.com.

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