High School Sports

Better than ever

As a golfer, Tommy Kjorlaug looks the same.

At 6-foot-2, 175 pounds, he's still a boomer off the tee, hitting drives 310 yards. And he's still Tumwater High School's No. 1 golfer after being named the Evergreen Conference's most valuable player last season.

Through Tuesday, Kjorlaug has helped Tumwater remain undefeated at 4-0, after he shot a 1-under-par 35 at Tumwater Valley Municipal Golf Course.

But according to his coach, Scott Killough, and according to Kjorlaug himself, he's a completely different player.

"He's matured so much," Killough said. "His ability to recover from a missed shot blows me away. His ability to recover is amazing."

That could spell trouble for the rest of the league. Last year, Kjorlaug averaged a league-best 36.5 strokes per match, shooting a season-best 3-under-par 33 at Tumwater Valley.

"I've got a better mental game," Kjorlaug said. "Last year, I'd get really frustrated with bad shots. This year I kind of blow it off. Last year, I'd carry a bad shot with me."

And because of that, Kjorlaug's scores suffered.

"I know I've got to let a bad shot go," Kjorlaug said. "I have, and I have gotten better."

Kjorlaug, a junior who has aspirations of playing golf in college, has a goal of averaging under par for the season.

"That's realistic for him," said Killough, who is beginning his seventh season as Tumwater's coach. "He can retain his title. He shot a few 38s last year, which isn't going to help the cause."

At Tumwater's three days of tryouts at the start of the season, the first day Kjorlaug shot par, and the next two he was 3-under-par.

With his long game under control, Kjorlaug is concentrating on his short game, putting extra in time with his irons and putter.

"The short game is really a mental thing," Kjorlaug said. "If you think you've got nothing to lose and you're relaxed, you'll make the shot. If you think you're going to mess up, you will."

While Kjorlaug's father, uncle and cousins play golf, Kjorlaug didn't start playing seriously until he was in eighth grade. It was then when he focused on golf, playing it year-round and giving up basketball.

"I just decided that I needed to focus on one sport," he said.

Last year, after leading the league in regular season play, Kjorlaug placed sixth at the district tournament and was 23rd at the Class 2A state tournament. He was in third place at state after shooting an opening-round 73, then followed that with an 85.

"The first day, I was confident. I believed in myself," Kjorlaug said. "That second day, I didn't."

With Kjorlaug back, Tumwater is expected to take a run at the league title along with Aberdeen. However, Tumwater's chances took a setback when Sean Bushay, who shot 80 and 88 at state to place 38th, was ruled academically ineligible.

"I have a very young team," Killough said. "Tommy is a junior. I have one senior, and the rest are sophomores."

In Class 3A, Capital, with its six state titles in the trophy case, is expected to take a run at the Western Cascade Conference championship along with Timberline.

With Jarred Bossio placing fourth last year at state, Capital finished third with 69.5 points. Joey Woods and Kyle Kanda, who both qualified for state, also return for the Cougars.

Timberline finished one spot back in fourth place at state with 70.5 points. Cameron Peck and John Jordan both placed in the top 15, helping the Blazers to their best-ever finish at state. Peck finished in fifth with rounds of 72 and 75.

"Timberline looks like it's ready to rock and roll," Capital coach Greg Santora said. "I think we'll be pretty solid in the top three spots. There's going to be a lot of pressure every week."