LAKE STEVENS — Lake Stevens senior Anthony Guerrero always has a plan.
Up until five years ago, that plan was to graduate high school and play hockey at the University of Minnesota.
That dream ended in a matter of seconds.
During a junior hockey game in Bremerton, an opponent checked Guerrero, then 14, into the boards. The hit resulted in a concussion. The post-concussion symptoms lingered to the point where doctors eventually told Guerrero, who had been playing hockey since he was 5 years old, it was time to hang up his skates.
The news left young Guerrero despondent, his father, Bill, said.
Looking for anything to brighten his son’s spirits, Bill asked Will Robbins, a family friend, to take Anthony golfing.
That outing changed Anthony’s life.
Five years later, Anthony is about to graduate from high school and has committed to play golf for Trinity Lutheran College in Everett on a partial scholarship. After completing college, he plans to attend the Professional Golfers Career College in Temecula, Calif., to become a teaching professional.
The concussion that led Anthony to the golf course wasn’t his first, but it was by far the most serious.
“I don’t remember all of it, but I remember we had just scored and we were taking a faceoff,” he said. “The other team won the faceoff and it went over to their blue line. I was skating to the puck and this kid on their team hit me and my head hit the glass. That’s all I really remember about it.”
Watching from afar, Bill didn’t realize how seriously Anthony was injured.
“At first I didn’t think he was that hurt,” Bill said. “It looked pretty innocent, all things considered.”
The referee was the one who informed Bill that Anthony had been knocked unconscious.
Over the next two weeks, Anthony underwent several tests as post-concussion symptoms persisted. He recalled one day sitting in class looking at the clock when all of the numbers on the bottom half disappeared.
“I wasn’t really sure what was going on,” Anthony said. “It was very, very scary.”
After about a month, doctors cleared Anthony to return to hockey, but the comeback was short-lived. He played in one game and afterward said he felt fine. But in the middle of the night, he woke up nauseous.
Doctors soon told Anthony he needed to stop playing hockey.
The news didn’t sit well.
“It was a solid month before I was back into thinking, ‘What am I going to do now?’ For a month it was just hard not to be able to do it,” Guerrero said.
Near the end of that month, Bill asked Robbins, an avid golfer and his friend of nearly 25 years, to take Anthony out for a round. Robbins saw talent in Anthony right away.
“The first time I went out there with Anthony he hit the ball really well,” Robbins added. “For a kid of 12- or 13-years old I was pretty surprised to go out there and see a kid swing the club that well. I told Bill that there is some real potential there.”
So Bill and his wife invested in clubs and Anthony began playing regularly.
“Initially, I felt like it was just going to be something to do in my spare time,” Anthony said. “After playing it a few more times it was like, ‘Wow, I really just like to hit a little white ball around.’”
As a freshman, Anthony tried out for the golf team at Lake Stevens with low expectations. To his surprise, he made varsity.
“That’s when I really got into it and wanted to get better,” he said. “That’s when I kind of thought I was good at it.”
Anthony had a lot of promise, but there were weaknesses in his game as a freshman.
“He hit the ball hard, but we didn’t know where it was going,” Lake Stevens golf coach Cliff McKinlay said.
Anthony’s short game also needed work.
“With most young golfers that’s the part that needs the most work,” McKinlay said. “You’re not going to hit every green, so you’ve got to get up and down.”
Anthony said his hockey background helped transition into golf.
“The swing was really easy because the hockey shot and the golf swing are kind of similar,” Anthony said. “it’s kind of the same backwards and through motion.”
Anthony shot in the mid-90s and low 100s as a freshman, but practiced relentlessly in the offseason. The strokes dropped quickly.
As a senior, Anthony is one of the Vikings’ top two golfers, consistently shooting in the 70s. Earlier this season he earned medalist honors in a match for the first time in his high school career.
“That was a big weight off of my shoulders,” he said. “After three years I didn’t think that it was ever going to happen and having it finally happen was amazing.”
Thanks to one round of golf with Robbins, Anthony turned a devastating setback into a potential career.
“It was very important,” Anthony said of that day of golf. “It kind of set up what I’m going to do with the rest of my life and it has really gotten me to this point.
“I don’t want to say the concussion was a good thing, but if it wasn’t for the concussion I wouldn’t be where I am now.”
Recently, Anthony got more good news — after five years, doctors cleared him to return to hockey. He joined the Midget Eagles of the SJHA. His first game back was at the same rink in Bremerton where he was injured. He marked his return by scoring a goal.
“I’ve learned that he’s got the ability to do whatever he wants,” Bill Guerrero said of his son. “He could tell me that he’s going to be an astronaut and I’d believe him. If he said I’m going to be a billionaire … anything that he tells me now that he wants to do, I believe that he’ll do it because I’ve seen him do it.”
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on Twitter at @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.