With five state championship banners hanging on campus, there are few high school golf programs in Washington as storied as Richland’s.
So when boys golf coach John Richardson counts senior Carl Underwood — the Herald’s All-Area Boys Golfer of the Year for the second year in a row — among the school’s all-time greats, it carries some weight.
“He’s one of the best golfers that I’ve had in my 22 years at Richland,” Richardson said. “He went to state his freshman year, didn’t make the second day. He was 10th his sophomore year. As a junior he was Number 1 in state and then tied for fifth his senior year.
“That’s quite a resume right there.”
Underwood was Richland’s first state champion since Zach Bixler in 2004.
Compared to this year, Underwood faced far fewer challenges from locals last season when he ran away with the MCC title and eventually took the state championship on his home course, Meadow Springs Country Club. Battling a hook that persisted throughout the season — and then flipped to a slice right before the state tournament — and seemingly tougher MCC competition, he finished alone at the top of just two of the six conference pods, and finished second in the 4A district meet behind Walla Walla’s Alex Johanson.
“This season definitely had a lot of ups and downs, and I learned a lot more from it than I did last year,” said Underwood, who shot a two-day, 5-over-par 145 at Liberty Lake Golf Course to tie for fifth at the Class 4A state tournament. “I think it helped that I struggled a little bit, because it made me work even harder. If you’re just going out and winning every time, you start to think that you don’t have to practice as much. And when there’s people always knocking on the door, you’ve gotta work.”
While some state champions get complacent in their title defense seasons, Richardson was impressed with Underwood’s work ethic in his senior campaign, especially considering he’d already locked up a scholarship from the University of Wyoming.
“Coming back as a senior after winning state, some kids just kind of go through the season not as motivated,” Richardson said. “Not Carl, he was motivated throughout the season, and he did really well.
“He has a lot of pride in himself and in his game.”
Underwood said he’ll be work-shopping his approach shots this summer, hoping more greens hit will translate into better putting when he gets to Laramie in the fall. Regardless of the result of his off-season work, he’s looking forward to starting the next chapter of his golf and academic careers.
“I’m really excited. I want to get away from home for a little bit, and I’m looking forward to a little bit more of a challenge when it comes to golf,” Underwood said. “Playing against a lot better people, a different atmosphere and people you can play against in practice, it pushes you a little bit harder.”
There were several juniors who pushed Underwood all season, and figure to make a run at a league title next year. On the All-Area first team are Kamiakin’s McGwire Hanson, Southridge’s Riley White and Johanson.
“I think it’s gonna be back-and-forth between McGwire and Alex,” Underwood said. “They’re both gonna be seniors, and they’re both pretty consistent in the 70s, so it’ll be a good battle.”
KAMIAKIN’S ROSE NAMED COACH OF THE YEAR
With Kamiakin nearly sweeping the MCC team title — won five of six events — and placing highly at the state tournament, Dennis Rose is the All-Area Boys Golf Coach of the Year.
Thanks to senior Bolton Dauenhauer and Hanson tying for 12th — both are All-Area first teamers — and Tommy Beason and Parker Morgan — second teamers — just missing the cut at the state tournament at Columbia Point, the Kamiakin boys took third among Class 3A teams.
2017 TRI-CITY HERALD ALL-AREA BOYS GOLF TEAM
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Carl Underwood, Richland
COACH OF THE YEAR: Dennis Rose, Kamiakin
FIRST TEAM: Carl Underwood, sr., Richland; Bolton Dauenhauer, sr., Kamiakin; McGwire Hanson, jr., Kamiakin; Patrick Azevedo, fr., Othello; Riley White, jr., Southridge; Alex Johanson, jr., Walla Walla.
SECOND TEAM: Gabe Cach, so., Hanford; Tommy Beason, fr., Kamiakin; Parker Morgan, jr., Kamiakin; Peter Aguilar, jr., Walla Walla; Clayton Whitby, jr., Chiawana; Shane Amidan, jr., Richland.
HONORABLE MENTION: Jackson Creer, jr., Hanford; Teddy Moore, so., Tri-Cities Prep; Braydon Hogg, jr., Richland; David Manthei, sr., Chiawana; Neal Zimmerman, so., Kennewick; Andrew Fridley, sr., Kennewick.