The Kamiak boys golf team has played all season with a target on its back.
Now, the Knights hope to wear that target for another season.
Kamiak is preparing for the 2013 4A state golf tournament, which tees off this morning at Camas Meadows Golf Club. The Knights are shooting for the same finish they enjoyed in 2012, when they captured the 4A boys team title.
As the defending state champions, the Knights gave opposing teams a little extra motivation this spring.
“At (the) Egbers (Invitational) a lot of teams tell us their coaches say, ‘Beat Kamiak. I don’t care if you beat any other team, just beat Kamiak,’” said Matt Kornegay, a junior who finished tied for 11th at state in 2012. “I like it.”
The Egbers Invitational, held each May at Skagit Golf &Country Club in Burlington, features some of the top teams in the state. Kamiak head coach Vic Alinen loves it, because facing that level of competition gives his team a taste of what to expect at the state tournament.
“That’s where the cream of the crop show up,” Alinen said. “The Bellarmine Prep kids just kicked our butts this year, where we had won it the last couple years. This year we ended up fourth. (But we got) a taste of the level we have to play to. … That level of play. We’ve got to step it up. Egbers helps because all those kids that were there, and placed in the top five, placed really well at state. And we saw them. We played with them.”
Kamiak edged that Bellarmine Prep team by four points at state last year to claim the team championship. Jackson’s Kyle Cornett won the individual title.
The Knights have become a 4A golf power in recent years. Kamiak won back-to-back titles in 2007-08, a feat the 2013 team hopes to match. Counting their title last season, the Knights have been state champions three times in the past six years.
The Knights know they have something special going. In fact, they’re thinking dynasty.
“Kamiak (won back-to-back titles) before I was even in high school, and I want to do that,” Kornegay said. “Hopefully, we can do it next year too and make it three years in a row.”
The pieces seem to be in place for the Knights to continue their success this season and beyond. Last year Kamiak took four golfers to state, with three of them making the cut on the first day. Those three all finished in the top 11.
And, they were all young.
“We won state with two sophomores and a junior, which is fabulous,” Alinen said. “All three of them played fabulous golf.”
Two have returned to Kamiak this season to defend their state title — the third, Joe Fryer, is attending the prestigious Lee Westwood Golf Academy in Europe. Senior Chris Hatch and Kornegay are hoping their prior experience at state helps, while junior Steven Cabanday has made the leap from junior-varsity golfer to varsity “stud” in just one season.
“We have a kid, he was our No. 1 JV player last year, Steve Cabanday, who absolutely has lit it up this year for us. He’s going to help us hopefully win it again,” Alinen said. “… He was our No. 1 JV guy and now he’s No. 1 in my heart.”
Cabanday made a conscious effort to improve after last season. He played more golf and hit the weight room, trying to improve his stamina for the upcoming season.
The results have paid immediate dividends, with Cabanday headed to state in his first season on the varsity.
“This is my first time and I’m just happy to be in this position,” Cabanday said. “I’m just going to play the best I can and see what happens. … My goal was just to make varsity this year. And then districts. And then state.”
Cabanday is teaming with Hatch, the lone senior, and Kornegay to try to reclaim the 4A state title. Hatch has been a big part of Kamiak’s success. He has been to the past two state tournaments and finished tied for eighth last season.
“I try to not let it get in my head and think of it as the state tournament,” Hatch said. “I think of it as another tournament and another round of golf.”
While winning the state title last season was the highlight of Hatch’s high school golfing career, he hopes to create an even better highlight this week.
“Egbers is pretty similar to state. I didn’t play the greatest and I got fourth, so if I can get it together during this tournament, I can hopefully pull out a win,” said Hatch, who will play next year at Western Washington University. “I just want to go out with two good rounds. Even if I don’t win, I just want to play good golf and have fun.”
Kornegay was another strong golfer for the Knights at state. His second-day score of 75 was the best on the team.
“Matt Kornegay played a great second round,” Alinen said. “We needed him to play that round to help us win.”
The junior is hoping his strong second day carries over to day one of the 2013 tournament.
“I want to do better than I did last year,” Kornegay said. “I played well the second day, it’s kind of a different feeling at the state tournament. Maybe this year, since we have less players going, it’s kind of forcing me to play a little better so we can win as a team.”
Alinen is nervously optimistic about his team’s chances of winning a second straight state title.
“I always have a few heebie-jeebies, but these kids are competitors. They know how to go to war, and they get ready to play,” Alinen said. “I hope we win it. We’re walking in with an attitude of, ‘We won it. Let’s do it again.’ That’s confidence.
“They’ve been there. They can do this again.”