Last year Emerald Ridge High golfer Taylor Koch was a quiet and sometimes docile competitor.
It was the nerves of being a freshman and starting on a new team in the fall that got the better of Koch during her first prep season with the Jaguars.
“I think I’ve gotten more comfortable with the idea of high school golf — that I figured out what it’s supposed to be and what to expect,” Koch admitted. “Last year, I didn’t have goals to win. I had goals to do good, to maybe get in the top five or to make the cut.
“Now I have higher goals.”
Then, in spring, things changed for Koch. It was her time as the sprint tournament (which includes the West Central District 3 and the state golf tournament) season began in full force.
“I listen to ‘Thunderstruck’ by AC/DC,” said Koch, who has began a tradition of listening to the Australian Rock and Roll Hall of Famers with her father, Mark, on drives before every tournament. “That just helps me get fired up and get in the zone. It’s nice (too) because I can ask my dad questions or he gives me advice on the drives there. (He) usually (says), ‘Just go out and play.’”
In one swift action, all of her nerves melted away as Koch felt she was right where she belonged as she became the first freshman at Emerald Ridge to reach the state tournament.
Her spring success carried over into the summer months, and now into the fall, and so did her tradition of blaring high-voltage rock.
Now, Koch is ready to rock the 4A South Puget Sound League and its state-qualifying tournament at her home course, The Classic Golf Club, on Thursday and Friday (Oct. 6-7).
I’ve definitely gotten better over the summer, especially to not backing down to competition, but trying to do my best because of the competition.
Taylor Koch, Emerald Ridge High golfer
“I’ve definitely gotten better over the summer, especially to not backing down to competition, but trying to do my best because of the competition,” Koch said. “(Since mid-July) I’ve just really been on.”
The transformation she has made over the last year wasn’t so much about of her coming out of her shell or finding who she was inside. It came from the understanding that she’s been here before, played that green on other occasions. No match and no tournament should be treated differently.
“On the team, she has a bit more seriousness. Not that she wasn’t serious before, but she’s a lot more focused,” Emerald Ridge coach Benjamin Muehlenbruch said. “I think she feels a little more of that pressure to score more for her team, but I think I don’t let she’s letting that get to her.”
Even though Emerald Ridge finished the season with a record of 2-6, Koch was still often the top golfer playing, medaling in seven out of eight matches.
The rare combination of confidence and knowledge is packaged together in Emerald Ridge’s top golfer. Coming into the season, Koch’s confidence was an all-time high, so she set the one goal only Abby Pfeifer (now at the University of Montana) prior accomplished: medaling in every league match.
While Pfeifer closed out her sophomore-through-senior run as a medalist in every match she played, Koch was unable to follow suit.
“My goal coming into the season was to medal in every match, and I wasn’t able to do that,” she said.
Koch medaled in seven out of eight matches, averaging 41 strokes over nine holes. The only match she didn’t medal in was against defending 4A state champion Bellarmine Prep on Sept. 13, where Lions teammates Julia Bordaux and Elle Ferreira came away as co-medalists after they each shot a 38.
“(Hole) No. 17 at The Classic, I was tied with a girl at a tournament, and I birdied that hole,” Koch said. “I try to keep that on my mind, and I can use those other shots to understand the situation, knowing what can go wrong. I use those past experiences.”
Now her season’s in the rearview mirror and it’s time to roll on to the SPSL state qualifying tournament this week.
With Gold Mountain Golf Club officials aerating the course this fall, the league has moved its meet to The Classic Golf Club. The move has Koch feeling extra confident this week because she knows this course better than any other out there. It’s become her getaway on those days she needs to play.
“The song, it means tournaments — it means playing,” Koch said about listening to AC/DC, which she will blast this week on her car ride to the SPSL tournament.
Once she steps up for her first tee shot on Thursday, there won’t be any nerves. Her energy will be too high as she’ll be ready to electrify the SPSL by taking a state-qualifying spot for herself.
“I think that I have done pretty well, and that I allow myself to get in the zone and be in that competitive nature,” Koch said. “I’ve gotten comfortable really playing this game. I have the mindset now of ‘Okay, I got this.’ I can look at most tournaments now and tell myself, ‘I can win this.’”