After two years of finishing runner-up at the girls Class 2A state golf tournament, Steilacoom High junior Cherokee Kim drained enough clutch putts to claim her first state championship.
“She hit the ball fantastically,” Steilacoom golf coach John Ford said. “I think she missed three shots the whole tournament. She had a little trouble putting the first day, but she came back at the end of the second round and made everything she needed to and finished strong.”
Kim finished second by one shot in each of the previous two years, but relied on the putter to help lead her to victory on Wednesday at Lake Spanaway Golf Course.
“I really wanted to take first this year,” Kim said. “I just told myself that I had to hit one shot at a time and stay focused, and whatever happens, happens.”
Kim went into the final round down four strokes to Interlake’s Aleana Groenhout, but she shot a 2-over 74 to finish with a two-day total of 9-over 153 – one stroke better than Fife sophomore Kendall Gray.
Groenhout led at the midpoint of the tournament with a first-round 75 but faded on the final day with an 84, finishing in third place with a two-day score of 159.
North Thurston’s Olivia Lowe followed up a 79 on the first day with an 86 for a two-day total of 165, good for fifth place.
Kim’s key to victory was shooting 1 under on the final nine holes, including a 25-foot birdie putt on the par-3 14th hole.
Gray had a chance to force a playoff with a birdie on the final hole, but her 20-footer from the fringe slid past the right edge of the cup.
“I had no idea,” Gray said about needing a birdie on No. 18. “I didn’t know where she was at.”
Even though Kim was four strokes back as the final round began, she wasn’t in the final group because Bellingham had six golfers make the cut, and teammates can’t play in the same group.
So Kim played ahead of the final group.
“It was kind of nerve-wracking because I didn’t know where (Kim) was,” Gray said. “And I didn’t know if she was playing good or bad, or what. I just knew that I was playing good.”
Kim had the added pressure of Washington State University women’s golf coach Kelli Kamimura following her group. Kim is considering attending WSU, along with Seattle University, and plans to visit the Pullman campus soon.
“It did add some pressure,” Kim said about Kamimura watching her play. “But I was confident with my game, and I know what I can do.”
Bellingham claimed its 10th state title in 11 years, winning convincingly with 152.5 points. The Red Raiders were led by Brooke Branigan and Jenn Paul, who finished tied for fourth at 18-over 162.
Fife was second with 62.5 points, while Burlington-Edison grabbed third with 54 points.
Bellingham golf coach Brad McKay said it was the first time the school had six golfers make the final cut.
“We’ve built a pretty cool legacy, and those kids want to keep that going for years to come,” McKay said. “And so it’s not just for today, it’s for the future. So it’s always fulfilling to win a state tournament.”email@example.com 253-597-8437