The 2016 Bobcat golf team has high expectations to live up to, even though their start to the season has been slower than expected. The team has been collectively improving, however, led by sophomore Collin Young, who finished third at last year’s division tournament and fifth at last year’s state tournament.
The Bobcats are young this year, having graduated their only senior on last year’s state runner up team (Young’s older brother Chris).
The Bobcats have a rich tradition that goes back quite a way. The boys’ golf program is the most successful sports program in the school’s history, featuring a Division III tying six state championships. The only other school in the state to win as many golf titles is private school Meadows located in Las Vegas. White Pine has also produced at least six individual champions, including the elder Young, Nick Marich, Ty Pickel, Shad Gale, Aaron Hansen (who won the title twice), Josh Brewer, and Shane Omar.
Some may wonder how a school in such a cold climate can find such success. WPHS golf coach and PGA professional Randy Long is not one of them. “Golf is a great way to keep boys productive and active. In the summer, boys and girls can come out to the course and play the whole day for next to nothing. And these young kids learn respect, honesty, integrity, hard work, and more through the game. Plus they learn mental toughness. Anyone who thinks golf is an easy game has never played it.”
The 2016 team is going to need to display some of this mental toughness as the season progresses. Due to some students’ travel, others’ struggles with grades, and the weather, the Bobcats did not send their most experienced six players to a tournament until this last weekend in Round Mountain. In the meantime, a number of younger golfers have contributed admirably to keep the ship afloat. “In Hawthorne, Pahrump, Elko, and West Wendover, a number if players competed in their first tournaments and really performed admirably. They include Mason Broughton, Gage Hunt, Henry McOmber, and Cameron Brazell. These boys really learned the difference between tournament golf and regular golf. They filled in when asked and should be really proud.”
With the weather finally warming up, the team has been able to put in the practice necessary to make improvements. Junior Tyler Kane, who won the Elko tournament reports, “Our most important thing to work on is short game. We know we won’t always hit it straight so if our chipping and putting are accurate, we can still shoot good numbers.”
The team finally sent its most experienced team to Round Mountain on April 8. Seniorless, the team was led by Young, who won medalist honors shooting 2 under par 70. It was Young’s second victory of the year along with two other finishes in the top three. “Collin loves the game. He practices all the time and plays in highly competitive junior tournaments all summer long. Last summer he really challenged himself by attempting to qualify for the US Junior Ametuer. He has the potential to shoot below 70 every single time he tees it up,” Long notes. Junior Justin Kirchner placed seventh in the tournament. “This was Justin’s first outing of the year and his scores will go down as he gets more reps. I expect for him to be a major contributor this year. He was out on the course all summer long.”
Juniors Kellen Wilkin and Dalton Westlund and sophomore Cameron Brazell rounded out Friday’s roster. “Kellen, Dalton, and Cameron will keep improving as we get more practice time. Dalton’s career low is 92 and he has posted a number of other scores in the mid 90s. Kellen has posted three scores in the 90s and has the goal of shooting in the 80s very soon. Justin will be shooting in the mid 80s as his game returns with more tournament reps. It will take desire, deducation and a competitive streak of taking teams to State.”
The. Bobcats will need strong performances from everyone to continue their streak of six plus years at the state tournament as a team. The low three teams from the division tournament earn entry to the state competition. This year, West Wendover, Meadows, Lake Mead, Needles, and White Pine are all tightly bunched. Only three of the teams will qualify for state. Besides the low three teams, the low five individuals who are not already a part of one of the low three teams also qualify.
At press time, Long reported on results from the River Valley Invitational, where the team was led by overall 10th place finisher Tyler Kane, who shot rounds of 84 and 79 at the difficult Mohave Golf Club near Laughlin.