High School Sports

Bellarmine Prep girls win 7th straight state golf title, combine with boys for a title record

Two state records are about enough for one day.

Seven consecutive — that’s the Bellarmine Prep girls golf team’s now-state-record streak of 4A state titles set Wednesday with its 135-91.5 win over second-place Camas.

Back-to-back — the Bellarmine boys got in on that action, winning their second state title in a row, 122-90 over second-place Eastlake.

No school has ever won two straight boys and girls golf titles in the same years.

“We’re all kind of numb here,” Bellarmine girls coach Mark Bender said. “How long does this last?”

Bender started coaching in 1997. He now has 10 state golf titles.

“It’s kind of surreal, to be honest,” Bender said. “You don’t anticipate these things happening. You kind of have good feelings about what you got to work with, you know where you are at when you get started with them.

“But it’s kind of crazy.”

That’s how you could also describe the four-way playoff for the 4A boys individual title.

Bellarmine’s RJ Manke and Joe Highsmith tied for the lowest rounds of the tournament, each shooting 1-under-par 71 Wednesday at Meadow Springs Country Club in Richland to finish in a four-way tie for first with Richland’s Carl Underwood and Redmond’s Sean Kato.

Kato and Highsmith bogeyed the first playoff hole.

Manke and Underwood then continued for four more playoff holes before Underwood sunk a 30-foot putt for birdie. Manke’s ensuing 15-foot downhill putt just slipped across the edge of the cup to seal Underwood’s title.

“I thought it was in the whole way,” Manke said. “It looked like it was in about two or three feet from the hole.”

That was after Manke went back-to-back bogeys on 17 and 18 in the third-to-last group. Bellarmine boys coach Steve George said Highsmith gave himself nine birdie chances from eight feet or less, but made one.

“Joe Highsmith had one of the best ball-striking rounds I’ve ever seen out of a high school player,” said George, who began coaching at Bellarmine in 1992.

“They played like the champs that they are. They were great.”

Kentwood’s Mason Koch and Thomas Jefferson’s Sean Yi tied for fifth with a two-round score of 3-over 147, and Olympia’s Riley Killip — the 4A Narrows champion — took eighth at 4-over 148 after tying with Highsmith and Manke with a low-round 71.

All six of Bellarmine’s girls golfers made the cut to Wednesday’s second and final round at Sun Willows Golf Course. Pasco’s Jalayne Martinez won the individual title with a two-round score of 2-under-par 142.

Bellarmine’s Clair Hill took ninth at 9-over 153, and teammate Morgan Bentley was two shots behind her.

Serena Lee ended at 12-over 156 and Tessa George, Steve George’s daughter, finished at 13-over 157.

That brings the program full circle. Steve George had coached Mark Bender’s daughter, Hailey Bender, to the state tournament. Now Mark Bender has done the same for Steve George’s daughter, Tessa.

“We have ourselves a little joking rivalry,” Bender said. “I’ve known Mark Bender for a long time. It’s been a special bond between us with the girls team and the guys team. It’s cool to be a part of history now.”

“We are good friends,” Bender said. “It’s been a lot of fun both of us watching these kids grow up and go through things.

“Hats off to the Bellarmine program and the support that we get. They really step up to the plate for us to make sure that our program is what it is.”

In 3A, Central Kitsap’s Brittany Kwon entered the day one stroke off the lead. So she decided to shoot a low-round 73 to win the 3A state title.

No other golfer shot better than 78 in the second round at Indian Canyon Golf Course in Spokane. Kwon won by five strokes over Lakeside of Seattle’s Abby Euyang. Auburn Riverside’s Jennifer Kim placed ninth.

The lefty became the first CK golfer to win the state title since Erynne Lee, who went on to become and All-American at UCLA before turning pro, in 2011.

Capital’s boys team placed second behind Roosevelt in the team race, with Eric Hagen finishing fifth and Gabe Barnes eighth.

TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677