When Robert Selland’s physical game catches up with his mental game, the Shadle Park freshman could become the best golfer in the Greater Spokane League.
He’s already close. His 79.1 scoring average in league meets placed him fifth.
“There’s a lot of pressure (in the GSL) playing with these seniors that are two or three clubs longer,” Shadle coach Randy Lotspeich said. “He’s not a good scorer because he hits it long, yet … but at no point this season did he get hung up on it.”
“Everyone picks on you if you’re a freshman,” Selland said. “They razz you about the clubs you hit into the greens because you’re not as long.”
Obviously, he learned how to play through it. That probably comes from teeing it up with a father, Keith, who played for Gonzaga Prep, and a grandfather, also Robert, who played at North Central.
So, who wins.
“It just depends on the mind games,” the grandfather said, sharing a laugh with his son.
“I think it works to his advantage,” his father added. “He gets used to stepping up to the ball and not worrying about the little things that might take you off your game.”
Both the elder Sellands were at Indian Canyon Monday to see how their protege did in the Inland Empire High School Tournament.
The event draws 24 teams for the one-day tournament that is also the first round of the GSL District 8 Tournament. The top 24 GSL golfers (plus ties) advance to the second round at MeadowWood on Thursday, with the top nine after that qualifying for the State AAA meet at Qualchan May 22-23.
It took 81 to move on in the GSL.
Selland easily qualified with a 78, but he was well off the lead of Kyle Kelly. The North Central junior shot a 3-under-par 69 to win the I.E. by two strokes. Mead won the team title with a 296, 14 strokes ahead of runner-up NC.
“I played all right, I guess,” Selland said. “I had two bad holes on the back side, missed a couple of putts.”
“To tell you the truth, he’s honestly, at this point, not a talent, but he is talented,” Lotspeich said. “He’s mentally tough; very competitive. I don’t know if that is family tradition, taught at the knee. He never has a game face, but he is a competitor.”
He comes by it naturally. His grandfather played on a North Central team led by the late former PGA pro Rod Funseth that won the city title, the I.E. title and state championship in 1950 and ‘51. Keith played on Gonzaga Prep’s I.E. championship team in 1973.
Young Robert said, “I’ve just played since I was 3 years old. I just liked it a lot. I don’t know why. That’s about all I do in the summers.”
“(He’s) played from the time he could swing a golf club, but the interest in it was his own. I didn’t push it,” his father said. “It’s the kind of thing, if your dad fishes, you learn how to fish… .”
The youngest Selland has already beaten his dad, reaching that milestone earlier than Keith did.
“Yes, he’s beaten me a couple of times,” Keith said. “I was closer to 16 or 17 (before beating his dad); he played the mind games.
“Robert works very hard. I can’t get him off the golf course. It costs me a fortune.”
Because of Selland’s summer experience, including a fifth in his age group in the junior state championship last summer, Lotspeich said, “I knew he was capable of shooting those type of numbers. There’s pressure there; that’s big time golf, but it’s still with kids his own age.”
“I’m very surprised,” Selland said of his success in the GSL, “since I had two very bad rounds at the end. I just had a couple of low ones early that saved me. Towards the end of the year I wasn’t hitting the ball well and I wasn’t putting well. I practiced hard the last couple of weeks to get ready for this tournament.”
His grandfather and father expect him to be better than either of them.
“I think he’ll be better,” his father said.
“Probably because of the equipment,” his grandfather said, “we keep giving him,” his father added.
There’s really more to it than that.
“The one thing I see that is different now than even when I play,” Keith said, “is the pros at the golf courses do a good job with these kids. They’re more accommodating. I can’t say enough about them.”
“When I played,” Keith’s father added, “the pros didn’t want you around, They couldn’t make any money. Of course, it cost 15 cents to play, 25 on weekends.”
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: LEADERBOARD Leaders of Inland Empire high school golf tournament Monday at Indian Canyon, par 72: Kyle Kelly (NC) 69 Jason Vedadi (Mead) 71 Casey Perry (Wenatchee) 71 Ryan Lavoie (Pasco) 72 Tim McElhinny (U-Hi) 73
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