Boys golf looks to defend state title

Bringing some state experience to the 2009 season, Mount Si golfer Bradley Harrelson putts during practice last week. - Seth Truscott / Snoqualmie Valley Record
Bringing some state experience to the 2009 season, Mount Si golfer Bradley Harrelson putts during practice last week.
— image credit: Seth Truscott / Snoqualmie Valley Record

Fresh off a state title, the Mount Si High School boys golf team will make a strong push to defend that crown this fall.

“It would be really cool to repeat state again,” said Wildcat senior Bryce Karalus. “We haven’t done that before in our school’s history.”

The Wildcats return all but two key competitors from last season’s title group. This year’s team should have what it takes to make it all the way.

Coached by Mike Johnston, in his 21st season overall and fourth with the boys’ program, Mount Si brings back tournament-experienced players in seniors Karalus, Bradley Harrelson and Brandon Snyder, and junior Jack Kelly. Among the key newcomers to this very solid group is sophomore Mitchell Gardunia.

All of these players played various summer tournaments, both locally and out of state. Harrelson played American Junior Golf Association events in California and Texas in addition to his local and regional competition. Kelly played in two national events this summer in Wenatchee and San Diego on top of his local tournaments.

Kelly says other players know how good this team really is.

“They know we play (strong) golf in the Valley and we got the WJGA state champ (2009 grad Mike Rutledge) in our Valley, we have a Junior World qualifier (Kelly himself),” he said. “There’s no question about it, we do have a really good team. They see us at our summer events; they’ll see us all with our Mount Si bags and they realize ‘Oh, you’re on the same team as Rutledge?’”

One of the two players who graduated this spring, Rutledge is playing at BCC this fall. He continued his success this summer with a Washington Junior Golf Association state title. The other graduated player, Luke Dietsch, could be playing this fall in college.

The departures will be felt, but with the experience and talent of the squad, Mount Si should be able to compete very well.

The state titles and strong tournament resumes of the players have helped to increase the program’s turnout, but there’s a catch.

“It helps, although there’s a downside to it in that some of them are a little bit leery because of the quality of the kids that are returning,” Johnston said. “They saw how they play and sometimes that’s intimidating.”

So, how do Karalus and the other experienced players help fix that? They give back.

“Throughout the rounds, we’ll hopefully give them little pointers that will help them with putting or their drives or any little points they’re having struggles with,” Karalus said.

Mercer Island appears to be the main challenger at the 3A level for the Wildcats. Within their division, look for Skyline and Redmond to make strong challenges — each of those teams boast WJGA players. Johnston takes a cautious approach.

“We have to take each match one at a time — that’s the way I always coach,” he said. “You can’t worry about what you’ve got ahead of you, you’ve got what you got right now, you deal with that and then you move on,” the coach said.

Kelly’s goal is clear: to repeat for state.

“I think we have as good a chance as anybody,” he said.

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