Nothing crushed Bellarmine Prep girls golf coach Mark Bender more Wednesday than having to tell two state-caliber golfers that they won’t play in the 4A state golf championships at Indian Canyon Golf Course in Spokane.
They’ll sit because — though they were two of the eight best golfers in the 4A Narrows League — they weren’t two of the six best on their own team.
Much like five-time defending state champion Bellarmine Prep has been the past six years, the Lions were so dominant in the 4A Narrows League Championships on Wednesday at Lake Spanaway Golf Course that their players took each of the top eight spots — including Olivia Benzin’s medalist-earning 3-over-par 147 over two days and 36 holes.
The top five golfers get to skip the district championships and start preparing for state. The next six advanced to districts.
But since Washington Interscholastic Activities Association rules limit teams to a maximum of six players to advance, that means Bellarmine Prep’s Maddy Kokich and Molly O’Brien finished their seasons — despite finishing seventh and eighth in the 4A Narrows League tournament Wednesday.
“I’m going to go deal with probably a dad and a kid who are going to be upset. He’s going to say, ‘This is (crap) and she should be at the state tournament,’ ” Bender said. “And he’ll be absolutely right. But the rules are the rules and I don’t make them.”
The next nine finishers behind Benzin, an Oregon State recruit, in order: Bellarmine Prep’s Serena Lee (152), Lilly Navarre (155), Tessa George (155), Claire Hill (155), Morgan Bentley (156), Kokich (159), O’Brien (167), Timberline’s Mikayla Blumer (170) and Stadium’s Esther Sibbett (178).
If that played similar to last year’s state championships at Club Green Meadows in Vancouver — where Bellarmine Prep won its fifth consecutive state title — the Lions’ top eight golfers would all place in the top 15 at state.
Bender said he’s pushed the WIAA the past couple of years to alter its rules and allow golfers who aren’t in the top six on their team to still compete individually at state.
“It’s been a fight, fight, fight,” Bender said.
“I hope that what happens with us this year, right here, that the WIAA takes a hard look at this because when they realize the numbers and scores that these kids shot and they are not able to go to the state championships, there is something tainted with the rules and the way they got this set up.”
LIONS TAKE BOYS TITLE
Bellarmine Prep also claimed the 4A Narrows boys title, with sophomore RJ Manke earning medalist honors with a 9-under 135 for the two-day tournament. He closed with a 5-under 67 on Wednesday.
Freshman teammate Joe Highsmith surged with 67 of his own to take second at 1-over 143. Bellarmine sophomore Collin Bordeaux, whose cousin is professional golfer T.J. Bordeaux, took fourth at 146.
Manke and Bordeaux played in the last group together alongside Olympia’s Connor McCauley and Nolan Backman, who finished third and fifth, respectively.
“I stayed relaxed,” Manke said. “I was playing with three friends I’ve known for a while. So it was a fun round of golf. I was more focused on their scores and just having a good round with friends.”
Gig Harbor’s Christian Youtsler earned the sixth and final spot to state in a playoff against Bellarmine’s Ryan Feyrer and Joe Lyon.
Central Kitsap’s Aubrey McKenzie earned the 3A medalist honors on the boys side with an even-par 144. He was eight strokes ahead of Capital’s Gabe Barnes (152).
Capital took the team title with Micah Nakao (159) taking third and Travis Bossio (168) taking sixth.
North Thurston’s Audrey Marlatt earned medalist honors in the 3A Narrows girls championships, beating Naomi Yamamoto of Capital by 23 strokes at 18-over 162.
Capital earned the girls title.