Golf is a sport of challenges; this the Gig Harbor High School boys team knows.
Winning a state title last year was difficult. Defending it this year will be hard. And doing it with one of their top golfers managing a fractured wrist is just another obstacle.
“It’s a cool opportunity this year,” Gig Harbor High School senior golfer Jaydon Raquiza said about what he faces starting Tuesday at the Indian Summer Country Club in Olympia.
Around December, Raquiza had to change his routine because of fractured right wrist. That meant missing half of his team’s matches this year. Some of his absences have been planned and strategic, trying to preserve himself in order to play late into the season, when Gig Harbor, the defending Class 3A golf champions, will need him most.
That time has come. Raquiza fired a two-round 150 (74, 76) at Trophy Lake Golf Course in the 3A district tournament, taking fourth overall to help the Tides get back into the state tournament.
He terms his injury as slightly nagging, but it’s going to take more than that to keep the senior out of the state tournament.
“The biggest thing for me is trying not to play too much, but also playing enough to not be rusty,” Raquiza said.
With him in the fold, Gig Harbor likes its chances to repeat. Senior Sean Vaovasa, who shot 148 at districts (72, 76), senior Griffin McCauley, who shot 150 (75, 75), junior Caden Arnold, who carded a 153 (77, 76) and Brandon McGinnis, who shot a 177 in districts (84, 93), form a balanced squad.
“Having Jaydon playing better, shooting lower scores, has kind of motivated all of us,” McCauley said. “He got into form and everyone has kind of gotten their stuff together after that.”
They’ll need to be at their best. As the defending champs, they’ll be the team others target.
“Everyone is aiming at our head,” McCauley said. “There’s some better depth across the board this year, too, so it’s going to be more difficult. I wouldn’t say we’re the favorites.”
There’s a good case to be made the Tides are uniquely qualified to be the team to beat in 3A. They’re the defending champs, they’ve got experience golfers and they know the course they’re playing on.
“I don’t think there’s any added pressure from winning last year,” said Arnold, who was the Tides’ top-finisher in state last year as a sophomore. “It’s the bar we’re setting for ourselves. I don’t think we have pressure but I think the other teams kind of see it that way. We’re not really thinking about losing, just want to get out there and play our golf.”
McCauley said the Tides are ready.
“We really like our chances if we play our best,” he said. “We’re just as capable as any other school. It’s nice to know we’ve done it before. Last year, we played really well. There’s no reason we can’t do it. We have the expectation to win but we know it’s going to be a dogfight out there.”
Gig Harbor will also have the benefit of playing on a familiar course. Indian Summer is the home of Timberline’s golf team, and the Tides played their 3A South Sound Conference rival there this season.
“The biggest thing is course management,” Arnold said. “Not electing to try to go for it on all the par 5s. You don’t want to just drive it as far as you can.”
Finding fairways — that’s the gameplan.
“It’s pretty narrow off the tee, so just making sure you don’t get yourself into trouble,” McCauley said. “If you find fairways, you’ll have a good shot at making some birdies. There are certain holes where you can be aggressive but shouldn’t be.”
Winning back-to-back titles would be a nice way to cap things off for the team’s three seniors.
“It’d mean everything,” McCauley said. “It’s our last go-around. If we can win the title as seniors, that’s a pretty cool deal.”
STATE GOLF TOURNAMENTS
Tuesday and Wednesday
4A girls: 7 a.m.at the Hangman Valley Golf Course in Spokane
4A boys: 7:30 a.m. at the Creek at Qualchan Golf Course in Spokane
3A girls: 8:30 a.m. at Hawks Prairie (Woodlands) Golf Course in Lacey
3A boys: At Indian Summer Country Club in Olympia. Tee times TBD
2A boys: 7 a.m. at the Liberty Lake Golf Course in Spokane County
2A girls: 7:30 a.m. at MeadowWood Golf Course in Liberty Lake
1A boys: 7:30 a.m, at Olympia Country and Golf Club