By Ian Ferguson
For younger golfers, the first few high school tournaments tend to be a steep learning curve.
Unlike a round played among friends, every golfer has to keep their own score as well as that of another golfer in the group. Add in the pressure of a higher level of competition, and it’s a lot more to handle than simply hitting the ball towards the hole.
Blaine boys golf coach Steve Barthlow said the team is small this year, but the younger players are showing talent and improvement in their first few tournaments. This year’s team has two seniors, one junior, one sophomore and two freshmen on varsity, and three other players swinging between varsity and junior varsity.
“I’m looking forward to this year,” Barthlow said. “We have a good group of golfers who are listening well, working hard and showing growth. Our goal is to improve our conference standing from last year, and I think we have a good chance of doing that.”
Aaron Onyon-Peterson and Charlie Baldwin, both seniors who played in multiple tournaments last year, are leading the team in the early-season tournaments so far. The other players are learning the basics of tournament play. Most recently, the team traveled to Sunnyside for a large-format tournament called the Grandview Invitational on March 23.
“We’ve gone there the past 10 years, and there are usually about 20 schools in the tournament. It’s a good chance to get tournament experience early in the season, a good chance for the team to bond together and the weather is usually good,” Barthlow said. “With the drier courses on the east side of the state, it’s a totally different game. On a good low shot, the ball will roll for a country mile.”
Despite course conditions different from what they are used to, three Blaine golfers shot their best score of the season. Onyon-Peterson shot a 92, Baldwin shot a 93 and sophomore Jackson Bray shot a 99.
“Jackson [Bray] went up 11 strokes on three holes, and I think he struggled with windy conditions during those three holes, which is something that experience helps you manage. If you look at the rest of his play other than those three holes, he played really well, especially for a younger player,” Barthlow said. “The score doesn’t matter as long as we’re learning, and to have three guys shoot their best score of the season, that’s a big positive for me.”
The team kicked off the season shooting 587 against Lynden and Burlington-Edison at Homestead Golf Course March 11, then shot a team score of 544 at North Bellingham Golf Course March 17. Barthlow said the team has shown steady improvement.
“We’ve gotten better each tournament, and I’m hoping the varsity players can continue to improve their scores. They’re learning to keep an even keel and play the ball as it lies,” Barthlow said.
Although it may be a rebuilding year, Barthlow said the future of the team is bright.
“If these younger guys keep up their improvement and play over the summer, we’ll get better next year and the year after that. That’s the benefit of having a young team,” Barthlow said.
Blaine will play in the Birger-Solberg Golf Tournament at Bellingham Golf and Country Club, hosted by Ferndale on Thursday, March 26. Athletes tee off at 12:30 p.m.