EVERETT — Alvin Kwak spent a combined seven hours on the putting green this weekend working to improve his short game.
All the extra repetitions paid off in a major way Monday afternoon.
The Kamiak senior standout claimed the Tom Dolan Memorial Invitational title for the second time in three years, shooting a 5-under-par 67 at Everett Golf & Country Club to win the 18th edition of Snohomish County’s largest annual prep golf tournament.
Kwak, who also won the event two years ago as a sophomore, is the tournament’s first-ever two-time champion.
“You look at those 18 years of (champions), and there’s some great (ones),” Knights coach Vic Alinen said. “But there’s only one that’s done it twice, and I couldn’t be more proud of him.”
Kwak, a three-time top-10 placer at the Class 4A state tournament, had been struggling with his putter this season. Sensing the need to make a change, he took advice from a golf pro last week who suggested he alter his grip and stand slightly farther away from the ball.
“It was such a subtle change, but it helped so much,” Kwak said.
The Columbia University-bound standout then spent four hours on the putting green Saturday and another three hours Sunday, honing his new technique with countless repetitions.
All the hard work came to fruition Monday with a bogey-free round that featured five birdies, including four on the back nine.
“That’s the commitment,” Alinen said. “The kids that play at the next level, they pay that kind of price, and we saw it (pay off) today.”
Kwak finished one stroke ahead of Riley Lai from St. George’s School (British Columbia) and two strokes in front of Kamiak senior teammate Devin Kim. The latter entered the tournament as Kamiak’s top golfer this season, but Kwak picked a good time to beat his fellow captain for the first time this spring.
“That’s the cool thing about these two guys,” Alinen said. “They’re two captains, they’re best friends and they compete against each other.”
“There’s a lot of competition within the team,” Kwak added, “which really helps us.”
Kwak and Kim led the Knights to the Dolan team title with a four-player combined score of 286, which broke the previous tournament record of 296, set by both the 2009 and 2012 Kamiak teams. Kamiak freshman Daniel Kim and teammate Joshua Clogston both shot a 3-over 75 to finish as part of a four-way tie for fifth place, giving the Knights four golfers among the top eight in the 92-person field.
“This group, top to bottom, could be the best team I’ve ever had,” Alinen said.
Two-time defending Dolan team champion St. George’s took second place with 302 strokes and Everett placed third with 306 strokes.
“My kids today played with heart,” Alinen said. “They had a focus like never before. We’ve been looking forward to this (tournament), because Everett has a great team, St. George’s has a great team and I (knew) this was going to be a test.”
Playing alongside Lai and one group behind Devin Kim, Kwak was sitting at 3-under through 15 holes before back-to-back birdies on No. 16 and 17.
Kwak drove his tee shot to the green on the 264-yard, par-4 16th and nearly sank an eagle putt, lipping out from about 15 feet. He tapped in for birdie to move to 4-under.
On the ensuing par-4 17th, Kwak chipped an approach shot from about 70 yards that landed within eight feet of the pin.
“The kid can flat-out chip,” Alinen said.
Kwak then sank the ensuing putt for another birdie to reach 5-under.
On the 18th hole, the Kamiak standout hit the green in two strokes and two-putted for par, tapping in to win the prestigious tournament for the second time in three years.
Kwak placed sixth in last year’s tournament, finishing one stroke out of a five-way tie for first place that resulted in a five-hole playoff.
But this year, thanks in large part to hours of hard work on the green, Kwak rose back to the top.
“It feels really good,” he said. “… It feels good to see (the work) pay off.”