A few coaches approached Lakewood High School girls golf coach Chris Walster at the first Northwest Conference match of the season on March 20 at Semiahmoo Golf Course in Blaine and asked him if he’d heard what one of his player had just done.
Walster immediately thought, “someone broke a window or someone threw a club into a pond or something.”
Far from it.
Freshman Malia Schroeder — playing in her first league match — approached hole No. 3, a 130-yard par 3, and decided to go with her 9-iron. With one swing, she accomplished a feat no other Lakewood golfer, girl or boy, had done in the previous 19 years of Cougars golf: a hole-in-one.
“(The ball) hit right of the pin and then it started rolling in,” Schroeder said of the shot. “I didn’t look and I looked back at the pin and I didn’t see my ball. Everyone else was looking for it, and then we realized that it probably went in the hole. … Then we got up (to the green) and it was in the hole.”
“It was really exciting. I had to play it cool until I got in (to the clubhouse).”
Girls on the team asked Walster if he thought anyone else would get an ace this season.
“I said, ‘No way. Do you realize what the odds of getting one are? Don’t plan on anybody else getting one.’ ”
Walster’s doubt seemed warranted. The chances of an average golfer hitting a hole-in-one are 12,000-to-1, according to the National Hole-in-One Registry.
Fast forward 41 days, to April 30, and a bit of deja vu struck the Cougars’ coach.
“Some people come up and say, ‘Did you hear what your girl did?’” Walster said. “And I said, ‘Broke a window?’ And they said, ‘Oh no, she got a hole-in-one.’ I thought they were joking.”
This time it was Mandy Harrison, another freshman, who aced the 89-yard par-3 No. 11 hole at Rope Rider Golf Course in Cle Elum.
“It was the second-to-last hole, so I was kinda done with the entire tournament because I was playing bad,” Harrison said. “So I hit my pitching wedge and it landed on the green, and I was like, ‘Oh, cool. That’s awesome. I finally got on the green.’
“I walked away and then everyone started cheering. I was kinda surprised because I never thought I could do it, and then I started to scream and we went to the hole and picked it up and everyone started cheering. It was pretty cool.”
Both were honored in front of their school for the achievements, Schroeder at a sports-recognition assembly earlier this spring, and Harrison during her lunch period this past Thursday.
Walster said that only one other Northwest Conference coach said they have had a golfer sink a hole-in-one in a high school match.
It was fitting for Harrison and Schroeder to share the accomplishment. The two have shared plenty of experiences together.
They started playing basketball together in the third grade and golf soon after. Over that time they have developed into close friends, even going on vacations together.
The two played together on the Pacific Northwest Girls Junior PGA circuit, golfing out of Skagit Golf & Country Club in Burlington, and played for the Cougars’ varsity girls basketball team, which Walster also coaches.
Walster, who has coached the girls golf program since its inception, said they’re the first two girls golfers to come into the program with prior experience.
“I think they were both more than ready to come in,” he said. “Far more ready than any of the girls we’ve had before.”
The prior experience has shown.
Harrison has put together a solid freshman campaign, finishing the regular season 20th in average score per match among the Northwest Conference’s Class 2A golfers.
Schroeder, who has been to the national Drive, Chip and Putt Championships at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, twice, has been nothing short of stellar in her first year of high school golf.
She was named the Northwest Conference co-MVP — which is given to the player with the lowest scoring average in conference matches — sharing the award with Mount Baker’s Clara Bergman. Schroeder finished with an average score of 79.4, which also put her 15th all-time for single-season scoring in the conference.
She is the first Lakewood golfer to earn that honor since the school joined the Northwest Conference at the start of the 2015-16 school year. Schroeder also set program records for lowest nine-hole score (34) and 18-hole score (76).
Next up for Harrison and Schroeder is this week’s Bi-District Tournament at Skagit Golf & Country Club, a familiar setting for the pair.
“We’re just trying to have fun with it,” Schroeder said, “because it’s our freshman year, and we’ve got a bunch more years to play in these.”