When he traveled to Burlington to compete in the Egbers Invitational on May 4, Blaine junior golfer Ryan Wallen had no reason to think he wouldn’t finish high in the standings.
After all, he had placed in the top two in his previous six tournaments. But a new putter contributed to his 21st-place finish, unusual for a golfer used to dominating the high school golf scene.
The annual Egbers Invite draws top golf talent from all around the state to the Skagit Valley Gold and Country Club. This year 115 high-school golfers from all state classifications competed.
Over the tournament’s 36 holes, Wallen shot a total of 154, 12 strokes back from the winner. He shot much higher than usual (he averages a 72.3) with a 75 and a 79.
“I actually shot pretty well and had great ball speed,” Wallen said. “I just didn’t putt that great. I had a new putter and have only been working with it for a week and didn’t hit it that well.”
For the Northwest Conference tournament on May 7, Wallen stuck with what he knew, and switched back to his old putter. He finished first once again and shot a par 72, beating Mount Vernon’s Brennan Emory by a single stroke. Wallen and Emory have been competing for the individual championship all season.
The NWC tournament was held at North Bellingham, one of Wallen’s favorite courses. Wallen shot an eagle and four birdies during the tournament.
“I have always played good at North Bellingham,” Wallen said. “It’s a good course. I felt loose and played my game all day.”
Wallen has tried to take that “loose” approach he has in life and apply it to his golf game.
“That’s when I play my best. When I am loose,” Wallen said. “I try to have fun and cheer the other people in my group on.”
Wallen has long been a powerhouse on the Blaine golf team. As a freshman he took home second in state, and last year as a sophomore he earned the title. This year, as a junior, he’s seeing even more improvement.
“I have been playing a lot more steady this year,” Wallen said. “My average is a lot better than last year’s too.”
As one of only two upperclassmen on the squad, this season has forced Wallen into a new position as a leader.
“I have always thought of golf as an individual sport, but this year I have had to be a leader,” Wallen said. “I am not the most vocal leader, but I try to lead by example. I always thought I could get by by just playing my game. This year I reached a point where I had to improve my game and I could show my teammates how to work hard and do that.”