The greens were soft and the fairways weren’t playing long. It was almost too easy.
A three-over par 75 was the highest you could shoot to make it past the first day of the 4A state boys golf championships Wednesday at the Creek at Qualchan in Spokane. Bellarmine Prep’s RJ Manke, Puyallup’s Chase Carlson and Olympia’s Nolan Backman are both caught in the logjam of five golfers who are one stroke back of Skyline’s Chris Mogg, who shot a 4-under 68.
“It was tailor-made for good numbers,” Bellarmine Prep coach Steve George said.
The tough part will be breaking through the pack for the state title Friday. Ten golfers, including Bellarmine Prep’s Joe Highsmith, Kentwood’s Mason Koch, Tahoma’s Parker Kneadler and Colt Sherrell and Stadium’s Michael Sibbett are two strokes off the lead.
Manke didn’t make the state tournament last year. He’s an even-keeled sophomore who played Thursday with a similar calmness he did in winning this year’s 4A Narrows League title.
Manke birdied four of his final six holes. His lone hiccup came on the 12th hole when he shot out of bounds but recovered for a bogey.
“He was just kind of RJ out there,” George said. “He’s pretty calm, doesn’t get uptight. If he had a bad shot, you wouldn’t really know it.”
Five of Bellarmine’s six golfers made it through to the second day, including Collin Bordeaux (73), Joe Allen (75) and Joe Lyon (75), setting up the Lions for a potential second state team title in three years.
“We didn’t really talk a whole lot other than saying, ‘Do what you did today,’” George said. “Hopefully, we roll in a few more putts. We didn’t struggle on the front, but we didn’t make as many as we did on the back.”
BENZIN Vs. KERSTEN
We’ve seen this one before.
Bellarmine Prep’s Olivia Benzin jumped out to a 6-under 68 after the first day of the 4A state girls golf championships at Indian Canyon Golf Course in Spokane. But even with that strong round, Lewis and Clark’s Sierra Kersten is just two strokes back.
The two tied for the lead two years ago before Kersten took home the state title in a playoff. Benzin’s headed to Oregon State University next year, Kersten will be at Stanford.
“I think one of the best things that happened to Olivia is that she is being challenged,” Bellarmine coach Mark Bender said. “They kind of feed off of each other.
“With the two of them, it will be a dogfight tomorrow. It will absolutely be the best golf match you are going to see in a long, long time.”
Bellarmine Prep sent each of its six golfers through to the second day, with Tessa George (Steve George’s daughter) sitting in fourth at 2-over 74. Thomas Jefferson’s Hanna Yi is tied for sixth at 76 and Bellarmine’s Lilly Navarre is tied for eighth at 78.
Central Kitsap’s Aubrie McKenzie is six strokes back in the 3A boys tournament behind Southridge’s Austin Brown. … Auburn Riverside’s Jennifer Kim is 13 strokes back of the lead at 83 in the 3A girls tournament. … Fife’s Tanner Brown is 10 strokes behind Ephrata’s Aaron Whalen, who is seeking his second 2A boys state title in three years. … White River’s Maci Goethals shot an 86 in the 2A girls tournament and is 15 strokes back of Ephrata’s Kenedee Peters. … Cascade Christian’s Hanna Boyd shot an 84 in the 1A girls tournament and is tied for sixth and eight strokes back of Elma’s Lauryn Keating, who won last year’s state title.
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677