The Kamiak golfers have been a powerful force at state over the years.
And with an impressive mix of top-end talent and depth on both teams this season, the Knights will be looking to add to their trophy collection.
The Kamiak boys and girls teams are both sending four golfers to the Class 4A state tournaments, which take place Tuesday and Wednesday in the Spokane suburb of Liberty Lake.
“Success breeds success,” said Knights boys coach Vic Alinen, who in recent years has spent four seasons coaching the boys team and one season coaching the girls team. “Winning hasn’t dropped off here, and it’s because (of) the program. When kids get that, ‘Hey, I’ve got to be committed to be on this team,’ they buy into it.”
The Kamiak boys team has claimed three state championships in the past decade (2012, 2008 and 2007) and earned eight top-10 finishes in the past 13 seasons. The girls team won the 2007 state title and owns 10 top-five finishes in the past 14 seasons.
Both teams cruised to district championships last week, giving the Kamiak golf program a combined 26 district titles since the school opened in 1993, according to Alinen.
“The blessing of Kamiak golf is that we have a propensity to reload,” Alinen said. “Other teams might have some great golfers, and when they’re gone, the program’s gone for a period of time. But in our house, at our course, it just seems like people fall in love with the game and fall in love with Harbour Pointe Golf Club.
“I get the blessed opportunity to get these young kids that want to be golfers. And I love that. They have a passion to be a golfer. The cool thing is I could go to that course — on the range or on the putting green — and I’ll see one of my guys there no matter what day.”
The Kamiak boys team is led by sophomore star Alvin Kwak, who tied for ninth place at last year’s state tournament and claimed the district title last week with a 1-under-par 143.
Kwak took up the sport after moving with his family from Korea to Snohomish County at age 8, and has developed into an elite golfer who regularly competes in national tournaments. In 2014, he won the 13-year-old division of the U.S. Kids Golf Teen World Championships in Pinehurst, North Carolina.
“There’s no doubt that he’s the best golfer in Snohomish County in the high school arena, and one of the best in the state of Washington,” Alinen said. “The thing that I love about him is that every time he screws up on a hole, he can bounce back, pull rabbits out of a hat and make things happen to give him great scores.
“He’s mentally tough, he doesn’t give up and he’s got grit. Grit is the key. The great ones have grit. They’re able to bounce back, not give up and stay in every stroke. And Alvin Kwak is one of those kids.”
Joining Kwak at state will be unrelated sophomores Devin Kim and Alex Kim and senior Tanner Mohr. The four make up the same group that earned Kamiak a ninth-place finish at last year’s state tournament.
All four Kamiak state-qualifying golfers placed in the top six at district, with Devin Kim finishing three strokes behind Kwak for second place. And all four regularly shoot in the 70s.
“When you have four young men that can shoot in the 70s, that is a prerequisite of trophying at this time of the year,” Alinen said. “You’ve got to have players that shoot in the low 70s for two rounds. … And when that happens, you have a great shot at first, second or third.”
The Kamiak girls are led by the standout duo of sophomore Jane Kim and junior Annette Vo.
Jane, who is Alex Kim’s twin sister, tied for 17th at state last year and has what girls coach Dan Murnan describes as “one of the best golf swings I’ve ever seen.” Jane claimed the district title last week, with Vo finishing one shot behind her for second place.
“They push each other and they have a lot of fun together practicing,” Murnan said. “They’re definitely a dynamic duo.”
Kamiak junior Rachel Ponting and sophomore Regina Park also qualified for state, giving the Knights four state qualifiers for the second consecutive year. The Kamiak girls team placed ninth at state last spring and is eyeing another strong showing this time.
“We have a really strong chance with four players, and I think we’re peaking at the right time,” Murnan said. “I think we have a great shot at getting all four girls to the second day, and then making a run and having a hot finish.”
OTHER LOCAL TEAMS TO WATCH
The Seagulls are sending three golfers — all underclassmen — to the 3A state tournament. Everett freshman Josef Koznek won the district title with an even-par 144. Sophomore Andrew Martin placed third and freshman Austin Duffy took fourth.
Arlington senior Connor Stephens took second place at district with a 4-over-par 148 and will be joined at state by teammates Cody Oakes and Caden Smith.
Archbishop Murphy boys
The same four Wildcats who earned Archbishop Murphy a fourth-place team finish last year are headed back to the 2A state tournament. Steve Shih is the Wildcats’ highest-seeded golfer, followed by Fulton Brawner, Matthew Pabisz and Jack McClincy. McClincy tied for eighth place at state last year and Pabisz tied for 13th.
Snohomish junior Vreni Todd, senior Annika Roberts and sophomore Maddy Johnson will represent the Panthers at the 3A state tournament. Todd and Roberts finished regulation in a three-way tie for first place at the district tournament, with Todd winning the first playoff hole to claim medalist honors and Roberts taking second place.