Wildcat boys' golf hopes to surprise

The Mount Si boys' golf team looks to make some noise this season, and they may have the golfers to do it.

Longtime girls' golf coach Mike Johnston adds the boys' side to his responsibilities this season. Johnston takes over for Garrick Phillips, who resigned following the end of the last school year to accept a position at University High School in Spokane. Johnston is set for his 18th season as the Wildcat girls' golf coach next spring.

The goals for the boys are the same as the girls, according to Johnston.

"I want to win and I want the kids to be winners and they are winners. As long as they do all the things that they are supposed to do, they're going to come through. I know that we haven't had any boys make it to state in about three years, so that's my number-one goal," Johnston said.

"I've got some things in mind; practice and practice rounds that we're going to play at the courses we're going to go to, but I want the kids to have fun. This is a lifetime sport, so this is something I'd like the kids to just have a good time with."

Leading the returning cast are seniors Tanner Ostby and Evan Heeringa. The two are friends, and both work at the TPC course on Snoqualmie Ridge. Heeringa, who worked that weekend along with Ostby, was awed by the experience.

"It was a lot of fun. I got to caddie for one of them one day and it was fun just watching them hit the ball," Heeringa said.

While the seniors both possess varsity experience with the Mount Si program, the top underclassmen, sophomore Michael Rutledge, possesses an equal amount of high level tournament experience; he is one of several local youth golfers who participate in Washington Junior Golf Association tournaments during the summer. Look for Rutledge, and also possibly freshman newcomer Bradley Harrelson, also with WJGA credentials, to be keys to success this season. Rutledge and Harrelson both did well in WJGA district events, and Harrelson missed the cut at the recent Pacific Northwest Golf Association junior boys' amateur regional tournament in Port Ludlow by just one shot.

The large turnout, along with the large number of local kids in the WJGA events, underscores the growth of the sport in the Valley at the youth level.

"I think the junior programs in the Valley have done a good job of getting kids involved in the program," Johnston said.

A key aspect of this growth is the talent level of the kids has improved. "A lot of these kids come in with pretty good skills. The junior program has really helped out a lot. I haven't seen as many poor swing mechanics and grips and things that I have seen in the past," Johnston said.

Johnston is unsure of who in the conference may be strongest, but he made this prediction: "I'm thinking that we're going to surprise some people. I'm hoping to do that and that's my goal, and I'd like to put a team out there that's going to finish at least in the middle or higher in the league this year."

Rutledge's home course is Twin Rivers in Fall City and he says the Mount Si course is a little more difficult for him than that one. "I get a lot less distance off the tee here than I do at Twin Rivers," the sophomore said, and when asked whether his favorite club off the tee is a driver, he said he was "pretty confident with it."

Ostby has been able to get a couple of rounds in on the TPC course, and he believes that course is difficult. "It's a lot longer and the fairways are narrow, so it makes it quite a bit harder," Ostby said.

What Johnston wants from his team is simple: "Do the best job you can, play within the rules of the game and have a good time," he said.

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