The defending state-champion Lewis and Clark boys golf team was replacing most everyone and the runner-up girls were without graduated two-time state champion Chessey Thomas.
But there was little doubt in the minds of returning Tigers state veterans Robby McKee and Megan Haase that their teams could still factor in the Greater Spokane League.
“Last year we were blowing people out and this year I knew it would be a little more competitive,” McKee said in a phone call from Salt Lake where he was visiting a college. “But I knew we could shoot the numbers and could win league again.”
Haase said the loss of Thomas made it a little more difficult.
“We had five returning varsity players so I knew we could do it,” Haase said.
Turns out they were right. Both boys and girls are nearing repeat GSL titles.
Barring calamity in next week’s league finales, the Tigers girls will win their seventh straight title and the boys their fourth in a row.
“We haven’t won it yet,” LC boys coach Jim Travis said. “But with players coming from junior varsity and one freshman in the lineup, this group has just played outstanding.”
LC has won three of the first four league meets.
Tigers boys have three of the top four 4A scorers – sophomore Carson Fuhs averaging an eye-opening 72 strokes per round, junior JM Larson at 74.5 and McKee at 75.
“Robby is a senior and has kind of been our leader,” Travis said. “He probably has the nicest swing of anybody in league and is fourth-year varsity. JM is third-year varsity and has worked hard to get stronger and is hitting the ball long.”
Travis said Fuhs has been rock-solid and consistent.
“Both his sisters, Molly and Morgan, were outstanding and very talented,” Travis said. “I didn’t expect he was going to play as well as he has, but again he has a good temperament.”
McKee said that Larson watched Fuhs play in the summer and was impressed.
“He said if it carries over into the spring season it would be awesome,” McKee said. “It happened.”
Last year McKee made his first state appearance, sharing 12th place for the team champions. He got hooked on golf at age 12 playing with his dad and plays daily. He will likely continue at Westminster, an NAIA school in Utah.
“Recently I’ve played with (PGA pro) Alex Prugh,” he said. “He kind of gives me a hard time when we play, but he will give me some pointers. Just watching his short game is incredible.”
Same story for girls
Haase hasn’t played as well as she can after last year’s 10th-place state finish, but Sydney Kersten has, with a 4A girls-best 76 strokes per round.
Their efforts, coupled with top-eight 4A averages by Katie Larson and Pilar Alfaro, have led to three wins and a second place in four GSL meets and a familiar place atop the GSL standings.
“I’ve just been blessed with great kids who want to get out there and get better and be part of this team,” coach Michelle Grafos said. “I think it shows. We’ve turned over the team a couple of times in my coaching career and are continually plugging along.
“Megan and Sydney have incredible games.”
“I somehow missed state, which was a huge bummer,” Kersten said of last year’s sophomore year.
She worked hard over the summer attending several tournaments, including the Junior World and Junior America’s Cup in San Diego.
“I just knew I needed to be more consistent so I could score low every time and not just every so often.”
Haase, averaging 80 in league this year, has been disappointed in her performance to date.
“Sydney’s scores have helped, my game definitely hasn’t,” she said. “I haven’t been playing as well as I want too. I’ve probably been putting too much pressure on myself worrying about scoring instead of just playing.”
Grafos said this week’s round was encouraging as the Tigers played like they can and hit their stride despite a rainy outing at Qualchan.
“I know I can golf and need to enjoy the game,” Haase said. “It’s coming around for state.”
Final weather word
As snow and rain fell Friday morning for the first day of the 66th Inland Empire Tennis Tournament, words by Mead boys coach Bill Wagstaff echoed from earlier in the week.
“I was talking to some of my players and told them it’s been nine weeks out since the start and we’ve had 15 or 16 practices outside,” he said. “The weather has just been brutal!”