Southridge junior Nick Mandell and Richland senior Kristin Strankman are never completely satisfied with their golf games.
They always work to improve, and they did enough of that this spring to be named the MVPs for the Tri-City Herald All-Area boys and girls golf teams.
Mandell was the top scorer in the CBBN 3A pod season, and he tied for fourth at the Class 3A state tournament at Indian Canyon Golf Course in Spokane with a two-round total of 146.
Still, the left-hander didn’t feel he played his best this season.
“This is my first season of shooting over 80 in a tournament,” he said. “I never shot over 78 before. I wanted to shoot even-par for all tournaments combined. I just didn’t get there.”
But one thing he really wanted was his team to win the state title, and the Suns did it.
“I still feel that MVP is an honor,” Mandell said. “But it was awesome to see the seniors get a title. Just for the school to get its third overall state championship was great.”
Southridge previously won team state titles in baseball and gymnastics.
Mandell, who went through a swing change last summer, was happy with his overall ballstriking.
“A lot of guys can get away with not hitting their best shot and still get on the green,” he said. “I had a lot of short putts, 10 feet in, for birdies. The swing looks 10 times better, but my putting could have been better.”
Strankman dominated the CBBN 4A in the pods and at district.
She struggled in the first round of the Class 4A state tournament at MeadowWood Golf Course in Spokane with an 84. But her second-round 75 brought her back to a 12th-place finish.
She did enough during the regular season to earn MVP.
“I changed my mental game a lot,” Strankman said. “I tried to have more fun out there and took it one shot at a time. I thought my game was pretty solid overall. Sometimes my putting didn’t come through.”
The toughest part was saying goodbye to her teammates, who day in and day out through the last few seasons battled one another during practice.
“Overall, I think it was a really good season,” said Strankman, who is headed to the University of Idaho on a golf scholarship. “It’s just bittersweet because we had seven seniors.”
Southridge boys coach Scott Stiles and Hanford girls coach Mike Neidhold were named the Herald’s coaches of the year. Both led their teams to state titles.
“I don’t know if you plan for that,” said Stiles, who also had senior Daniel Cruzen on the first team. “We went into the season knowing we had a good chance to repeat as league champs. We had a chance to repeat at district. These guys play all summer long.”
So did the Hanford girls, who had juniors Kelsey Aiello and Taylor Kain-Godoy on the first team.
“(Winning the award) means I drive the van correctly, I get to the golf course correctly, I know where to eat and I get them home safely,” Neidhold said. “We have such a good group of kids that we enjoy our time together.”
And the players wanted to improve.
Neidhold recounted what happened after the Falcons won their first match — the first of many victories: “On the way home, we asked around the van for each player to tell me two things you did good today, and one thing you need to do to get better.”
It worked all the way to the state title.
Nick Mandell, jr., Southridge; Ryan Baumgart, jr., DeSales; Daniel Cruzen, sr., Southridge; Jeff Marcum, jr., Richland; Tanner Martin, jr., Hanford; Hunter Thompson, jr., Richland. Coach of the Year: Scott Stiles, Southridge.
Nick Atkin, sr., Southridge; Dean Atkinson, jr., Walla Walla; Cole Lorenzo, sr., Richland; Samson Martinez, sr., Pasco; Drew McCullough, so., Richland.
Kristin Strankman, sr., Richland; Kelsey Aiello, jr., Hanford; Jessica Huntsman, so., Walla Walla; Taylor Kain-Godoy, jr., Hanford; Neydeen Martinez, so., Pasco; Catherine Warner, so., Southridge. Coach of the Year: Mike Neidhold, Hanford.
Emily Baumgart, 8th., DeSales; Molly David, sr., Richland; Abby McMinn, jr., Richland; Hope Neidhold, sr., Richland; Kelci Robertson, sr., Richland