By Chris Trujillo For The Weekly Herald
The only drama Meadowdale girls golf coach Chris Huddleson wants to see is the type that stays on the golf course, whether it’s a knee-knocking four-foot putt, or a crucial drive on the 9th hole.
“That’s our motto for the season,” the fifth-year girls coach said. “No drama. There’s always going to be some, but they’ve been great. They’ve been focused and serious on the course. That might be one of the differences between boys and girls golf. Boys just want to keep playing where girls can sometimes get lost socializing. But this team is proving to be different. They want to play, and they love practicing, especially on their short game. They incorporate these goofy games, but as long as they are practicing, I’m happy.”
Huddleson spent 14 years as Lynnwood boys coach.
The Mavericks are led by seniors Jin Im at No. 1 and Stephanie Gonzales at No. 2, both of whom Huddleson believes have a legitimate shot at making the state tournament.
“This is probably the most talented team I’ve had,” Huddleson said. “Stephanie (Gonzales) is my quiet leader and Jin (Im) has great potential. I am really excited to see how they play this season.”
At the No. 3 spot is sophomore Hailey Maltbie, followed by newcomers freshman Ana Maria Beall and sophomore Annelise Blanchard. Junior Brooke Bonnell is currently penned in as the team’s No. 6 player. Similar to most teams, players can challenge each other to move up a spot. The Mavericks have 11 players on their roster, making the competition a bit stiffer. Junior Katie Harrington and freshman Bethany Kimball are the most likely players to move into starting positions, Huddleson said. Behind them are juniors Moya Lojewski, Lynnea Maraveller and sophomore Kylie Powers.
“There will be some movement at the sixth spot, at least for now,” Huddleson said. “But my top five spots are much more solid. That’s why this season’s team will be more competitive. We haven’t had strong teams in the past. We’ve always placed in the bottom three, but I think we will be stronger and more focused this season. It might take us a while, but that will change.”
Huddleson’s lofty expectations won’t fully fall on his top two players. In fact, Huddleson has high praises for his two newcomers, especially Beall. He believes the frosh could record 20 or more points on any given match.
“It’s hard to know scorewise where the two new girls are,” he said. “But Ana Maria (Beall) had 11 points one day and scored 14 points in a practice round, so I have no doubt that she’ll be scoring in the 20 as the season goes on.”
Unlike some teams’ players in the league, Huddleson’s players are what he calls “season golfers.” They pick up the sticks in late February and then set them aside at the end of the season. None of his 11 players compete in any junior golf programs. More importantly, their main priority belongs to their academics. All of Huddleson’s players are taking A.P. classes.
“All my girls are very strong academically,” he said. “They pretty much work around their academics. Their main focus is definitely placed on their school work. None of them are year-round players. They put their clubs away at end and pick up in the beginning of the season.”
Still, Huddleson’s main goal is to send as many players possible to the second round of the district tournament and onto the state tournament.
“First and foremost, I want my girls to enjoy the game,” he said. “But I believe four of my players could move past the first round of the district round.”
Here is a look at Edmonds-Woodway and Lynnwood.
Playing a rain-soaked golf course isn’t exactly ideal for any golfer. But the crummy weather hasn’t dampened the mood for the Warriors girls golf team.
In fact, Edmonds-Woodway has been impressive, winning twice so far this season, including its own meet.
The Warriors edged out Mountlake Terrace and Arlington to win the Edmonds-Woodway match March 21 at the Nile Shrine Golf Course. Senior Izzy Jung led the charge, recording 24 modified Stableford points and earning medalist honors. The Warriors finished with 97 points followed by Mountlake Terrace (76) and Arlington (59). E-W’s No. 2 golfer, Sung Byun, racked up 22 points and No. 4 golfer Taylor Doherty contributed 19 points.
“Yeah, it’s been pretty wet, but we’ve been able to play all our matches,” Edmonds-Woodway coach Matt Caldwell said. “We haven’t been rained out, but the weather is just something we have to play through. But I have to say the girls are playing very well. They practice really hard, and when we don’t have a match the girls work on their short game. And then they’ll putt for an hour or so.”
Despite finishing third as a team during a match March 28 at Nile, Jung’s strong play continued as she scored 19 points while No. 3 golfer Katarina Nguyen posted 16 points. Edmonds-Woodway finished with 76 points. Jackson finished second with 91 and Kamiak won the meet with 116 points. On March 23 the Warriors defeated Mountlake Terrace 84-75.
“We are pretty consistent with our top six,” Caldwell said. “But I think, out of all the girls, Estella (Jung) has the best chance to make the state tournament. She’s a solid golfer and she’s consistent.”
Rounding out the top six are juniors Sydney Ohly at the No. 5 slot and Catelin Maury at No. 6. Ohly scored 13 points in the Warriors’ third-place finish and Maury posted 16 points at the Edmonds-Woodway match.
With the loss of two state qualifiers and a team made up of nearly all sophomores, four of whom are new to the sport, the Royals girls golf team might have more problems than the rain-drenched course conditions.
“Our team this year is very young with four of our six players brand new to golf, so winning matches this year will be tough,” Lynnwood coach Glenn Chinn said. “I have the kids focusing on achieving smaller victories that pertain to meeting personal goals and improving.”
“With the team being very young, I appreciate this year’s group because of their eagerness to learn golf and get better,” Chinn said. “They work hard and I like how they support one another through celebrating great rounds and encouraging one another during the tough rounds. Sometimes I feel bad for the new golfers when it’s cold and rainy outside, but it really hasn’t phased them too much.”
The Royals are led by junior Izzy Maza at the No. 1 spot and sophomore Vicki Lee at No. 2. Lynnwood recorded its best performance of season March 23 at Walter Hall Golf Course when it finished second in a three-team match with Mountlake Terrace and Cascade. Maza scored 22 points and earned co-medalist honors with Terrace’s Sydella Yorker. The Royals scored 68 points, 10 points behind Mountlake Terrace.
Sophomore Gladys Mwangi, in her first year playing golf, occupies the No. 3 spot followed by junior Nora Selander and sophomores Kelsey Dumo and Elaine Wu.
“I’ve been coaching for about 12 years now,” Chinn said, “and we don’t get a lot of experienced, club players — in fact we never have. But I appreciate the fact that these girls come out year in and year out to play golf, grow and love the game.”
Chinn has a personal connection to the Lynnwood girls golf scene. If not for him, the Lynnwood girls golf program may have never seen the light of day.
“I used to coach the boys team many years ago until one day a girl joined the boys team,” he said. “The next year, I decided to start a girls team and it’s been around ever since.”