Sometimes sports teams have that happy convergence of talent that makes a coach smile.
Mt. Spokane boys golf coach Greg Schultz envisioned such a special moment coming several years ago and it came to pass last year when five young Wildcats qualified for state – even though No. 1 player Austin Billeter had a bad day at district and missed out.
They’re all back and earned an invite to the prestigious Champions Invitational, beginning Thursday in Palm Springs, Calif.
Forty-one teams and 275 individuals from the Western United States will take part in the flighted 54-hole event.
“It’s a bubble in time for us when we have a number of pretty established players,” Schultz said. “Ferris was invited four or five years ago. I knew we had the potential for some kind of travel and thought this was possible when Ferris was invited.”
He began setting money aside and his players funded the majority of the rest.
It will be their fourth tournament this year. Mt. Spokane finished fourth in Pasco, where Tye Morrison and Billeter tied for fourth individually, and fourth again in Kennewick behind Tri-Cities schools.
Last week the Wildcats won the local Jim Shriver Cup at Manito Golf and Country Club with a four-player score of 307, four strokes ahead of Clarkston.
Morrison won in a playoff over Clarkston’s Michael Baldeck after both shot 72. Billeter shared third with Coeur d’Alene’s Kyle Kaufman at 74.
“My kids have been really successful around the PNW junior circuit since they were 11 or 12 years old,” said Schultz, Mt. Spokane’s 14-year coach who has a couple of former players who are PGA members.
This group is young, with two juniors and three sophomores among the top five and a freshman potentially in the mix.
“The signs are already there that we are better than last year. It’s just a matter of staying focused, treating practice seriously and preparing,” Schultz said. “They have the potential to be my best group.”
Things change, remain same
Even if hit by graduation, Lewis and Clark’s state-placing boys and girls took up where they left off, with victories in the first Greater Spokane League golf match this year.
The league- and state-champion Tigers boys graduated two of their three state scorers and return but two varsity regulars – state placer Robby McKee and junior John-Michael Larson.
But the new-look team – McKee’s the only senior – scored 377 to edge favored Mt. Spokane by three strokes Monday at Sun Dance Golf Club.
Larson was medalist with a 70 and sophomore teammate Carson Fuhs was part of a three-way tie for second with Mead’s Tommy Sheppard and Mt. Spokane’s Nick Thurston at 72.
The match came down to LC’s No. 5 golfer, sophomore Joey Garrison, whose back-nine 37 gave him an 81 and the three-stroke team victory.
“Going in we didn’t know (what the outcome could be), so it was a little bit of a surprise and kind of not,” coach Jim Travis said. “We were the last to come in and knew what number we needed to win. It was a great start.”
LC’s girls, second in state last year, scored a 10-stroke victory over Mead 456-466 in the girls match.
Mt. Spokane freshman Sierra Bezdicek shot 74 to medal in her GSL debut. Her junior sister and defending State 3A champion Savana was third at 78, one stroke behind LC’s Sydney Kersten.
Time for a tennis break
Area tennis teams have scrambled to beat spring’s fickle weather and get matches in. The GSL will now take a break until April 12 in hope of more reliable conditions.
Girls preseason favorites University, Mead and Central Valley are off to 2-0 starts, including Mead’s 6-1 win over Gonzaga Prep. No. 1 singles player Katijene Stime has won twice in straight sets.
G-Prep and Ferris boys are 2-0 into the break, having defeated contender Mead, 6-1 and 5-2, respectively. The Bullpups have mixed and matched their lineup, even having singles standouts Riley Poppy and state veteran Alex Marcinkowski team up as a doubles team. Ferris No. 1 Tom Geranios has breezed, including 6-2, 6-1 over Central Valley regional veteran Peter Ho.