SPORTS: Area high school golfers score at Tim Higgins Invitational

PORT ANGELES STANDOUT golfer Joe Barnes’ slump continues in the most unusual way.

The senior state-class athlete who finished in the top six at the 2A state tournament last year and took the Olympic League by storm in his first season in high school golf, was disqualified at the prestigious Tim Higgins Memorial Tournament after he finished one stroke out of first place.

Barnes, the defending Tim Higgins champion, was disqualified after signing an incorrect scorecard, showing he shot a 76 when he had actually had a 77 for 18 holes at Kitsap Golf & Country Club in Bremerton.

Barnes had written down six for the 18th hole but had double-bogeyed it with a seven.

“That’s a valuable lesson for all of us to learn,” Port Angeles coach Mark Mitrovich said.

“Joe tried to run down the kid who had his card but he didn’t get to him before the card was turned in.”

Once the score is turned in, it’s an automatic disqualification if the score is wrong, Mitrovich said.

“You need to verify the score before the card is turned in. Joe felt really bad about it.”

Barnes rarely lost last year but seems to be in a little slump right now.

“Joe’s going through a little dip in his play, it happens sometimes,” Mitrovich said after Wednesday’s dual match with Sequim.

“You can’t play at a high level all the time.”

Still, Barnes was in the mix at Tim Higgins despite the bad hole on the 18th.

Three golfers tied for first place with scores of 76, while Barnes would have tied for fourth place with his 77 along with Chimacum standout golfer Kevin Miller, both of them just a stroke behind the leaders.

Central Kitsap’s Aubrey McKenzie won a three-way playoff to earn medalist honors, beating out teammate Spencer Jacobson and Klahowya’s Aaron Holiday.

McKenzie and Jacobson sparked the Cougars to their fourth consecutive tournament team win on their home course with a score of 318 while the stellar Cowboys took second with 331, followed by South Kitsap 359, Klahowya and North Mason 361 each, Kingston 363, Sequim 377, Bremerton and Olympic 383 each, and North Kitsap 415.

The Roughriders didn’t have a team score because they didn’t have a full team of four players due to Barnes’ disqualification.

But they would have taken second place with 326, five strokes ahead of Chimacum.

Both the Riders and Cowboys are undefeated in dual-meet competition.

They will face off at the Chimacum Invitational on Tuesday, more on that later.

Port Angeles sophomore Alex Atwell shot a 79 and was one of just six players out of 44 to shoot below 80.

The course has a par of 72.

That was the second match in a row that Atwell shot a career-best score.

“That’s the first time Alex has shot below 80 this year,” Mitrovich said.

“That’s a great score on that course.”

Helping Chimacum to second place were Nathan Browning with 81, Jack Hilt with 86 and Riley Downs with 87.

Jack Shea was Sequim’s top scorer with 84 as the Wolves claimed seventh.

The other three Sequim players were within a stroke of each other as Travis Priest shot 97 and Alex McCracken and Matt Cays shot 98 each.

For Port Angeles, Garrett Payton shot 80 and Austin Underwood had a 90.

Barnes may be struggling a little right now but he and his Port Angeles teammates are having another stellar season.

“Joe continues to suffer from slow starts,” Mitrovich said.

The Riders dominated the Wolves by 35 strokes, 396-431, to stay perfect on the year while winning the Olympic League championship (7-0) on Wednesday at the Sequim home course, Cedars at Dungeness Golf Course.

Four Riders had career-best scores in that match as Payton led the way with a 74 to secure medalist honors for the third time this year.

Barnes still leads Port Angeles with four league medalist titles this season.

The Riders played like they owned the course against rival Sequim in the dual meet.

And in a sense, Port Angeles doesn’t consider Dungeness to be much of an away match anyway.

“We practice on different courses,” Mitrovich said.

“Dungeness has been good about letting us practice there. We also play at SunLand [Golf & Country Club in Sequim].

“It’s good to play at away courses and get used to them.”

What is good for the goose also is good for the gander.

“If other teams want to practice at Peninsula [Golf Club in Port Angeles], they are welcome,” Mitrovich said.

The Riders, who captured fifth place in state with a team score of 75.50 last year, are dominating the Olympic League.

Barnes currently is tied for first place in league for a nine-hole average of 38.4 with Olympic’s Trent Ferris while the Riders have four of the top five golfers.

Payton is in third with a 39.2 average while Atwell is not far behind in fourth with 40.8.

Teammate Austin Underwood is 12th with 43.9.

The youthful Wolves have one golfer in the top 10, Priest, who is 10th at 43.2. Priest was runner-up behind Payton in Wednesday’s dual meet.

Payton got a little bit of a boost in the Sequim match after his coach replaced the grips on all of his irons.

“The grips were old and slippery,” Mitrovich said. “It is a lot easier to play with good grips.”

Mitrovich said he is proud about the way the Riders are performing.

While Payton and Barnes are getting the headlines, Atwell, Underwood and Micah Needham also are playing great golf.

Both Underwood and Needham scored personal bests against Sequim with 81 and 83 scores, respectively.

“Austin is driving and putting well right now,” Mitrovich said.

“Micah is playing well, too. He is playing with greater confidence and he has been more consistent.

“His iron play and short game skills are saving him strokes.

“Austin and Micah’s practice sessions are improving, and its just a matter of time that they put it all together.”

The two combined for two birdies and 14 pars against Sequim.

“They are demonstrating better play, which is key for us to be more consistent,” Mitrovich said.

Area golf fans will get to see the North Olympic Peninsula high school teams all in action Tuesday as Port Angeles and Sequim will play at the Chimacum Invitational at the Port Ludlow Golf Club.

It should be a good showdown between 2A powerhouse Port Angeles and 1A powerhouse Chimacum.

“It will be really close [between the two teams],” Mitrovich said.

“It will be a lot of fun.”

And hopefully, no one will make any mistakes on his scorecard.

Action starts at 1:30 p.m.


Sports Editor Brad ­LaBrie can be reached at 360-417-3525 or at [email protected]

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