If things go as they have all season, the Class 4A boys state golf tournament figures to involve a lot of Richland High players.
The Bombers, who swept the five state qualifying spots at last week’s District 5 tournament, hope to get at least three through to Thursday’s final round and bring home the program’s first state title since 2004.
Drew McCullough, Carl Underwood, Hunter Ashby, Nick Yamauchi and Andrew Hattori will all represent Richland High at the state tournament at Camas Meadows Golf Course in the Vancouver area starting Wednesday.
“I feel like we can do pretty well,” Hattori said. “Especially with Drew and Carl, they are pretty strong players. As long as we can make it to the second day, I think we have a pretty good chance.”
There will be 80 golfers competing Wednesday and the top 40 will play in the second round with the individual and team titles on the line.
“The expectations are to play the best you can the first day,” Richland coach John Richardson said. “The second day tells it all. These kids have the experience. They should be all right.”
To even get to this point, though, the Bombers had to compete amongst themselves on the district stage.
Richland High had the top seven golfers at the district tournament, creating some strange pairings on the final day.
“It is a little difficult,” McCullough said of playing against his teammates. “You kind of approached it like practice. We went out there and played like friends. You want to win, but you also want your teammates to play good. You can’t just root against them, you have to root for them.”
While McCullough topped freshman Underwood in a playoff, Hattori had the most awkward day of all, going up against his younger brother, Evan.
“I really wanted to beat my brother, especially because I’m a senior,” Andrew said, “but finishing and seeing him with such a sad face — it kind of sucked. He was pretty down about it.”
Andrew did point out — with a laugh — that his brother has two more chances to make state, though.
The team depth has been there throughout the season for the Bombers, which has helped them improve and stay fresh.
“It is kind of a blessing and a curse,” Andrew Hattori said. “It is really great to have such a good team and knowing that we’ll have a good chance at state and winning all of these tournaments.
“But at the same time, I missed a few tournaments, and there are a few kids that play JV that would be on varsity at any other school.”
In the end, though, the group is happy for the competition.
“We have a lot of good players going over there and a lot of consistency,” Underwood said. “Hopefully at least three or four of us will make the cut.”
The competition has helped push McCullough to great heights. He signed with the University of Wyoming for golf, and has won eight of the 11 events he has entered this year.
“I got off to a good start, playing really well in the first few tournaments,” he said. “Toward the middle of the year, I stopped playing as well. I didn’t hit the ball as good, but I still scored good enough to win tournaments.
“I have been working with (my swing coach) a lot more lately. It is getting there. I think I will have a good chance at state.”This is the third time McCullough has qualified for state and he is still looking to make a cut.
“I haven’t performed well over there,” he said. “I haven’t broken 80, and missed both cuts I’ve played in. I want to play well individually, but our goal is to have three or four or maybe five make the cut and get some points for that state title. I think we can do it.”