It was a banner year for high school golfers from the Mid-Columbia Conference, as Richland’s Carl Underwood, Pasco’s Jalayne Martinez and the Southridge girls team all won state championships.
“This is probably one of the best years the MCC has ever had,” said Underwood, the Tri-City Herald’s All-Area boys golfer of the year. “We had two medalists, and Southridge won the team title for girls. The Kamiakin girls got second, (the Richland boys) got third.
“If you told me that would happen at the beginning of the season, I would say there’s no way. Everyone’s definitely improved throughout the season, and we’re just getting better.”
Martinez, the All-Area girls golfer, capped her prep career by winning the Class 4A state title at Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco.
“I knew that it was going to be at Sun Willows last winter. ... Ever since I found out, I was like, ‘I have to win the tournament,’ ” she said.
Martinez led by three strokes going into the final round of state. Despite some struggles on the last three holes, she ended up winning by two strokes.
“I’ve had a lot of tournament experience, and I think that was key,” Martinez said. “Being in those situations before, going into a tournament with the lead, staying calm knowing that you have a job to do, take deep breaths and stay positive, it’s really all you can do. It just came from all kinds of experience, me playing junior golf growing up. I had to learn it over time. You can never learn something like that overnight.”
Underwood claimed the 4A boys championship at Meadow Springs Country Club in Richland. The junior finished in a four-way tie for the lead to set up a playoff for the title.
He was crowned the winner on the fifth extra hole. It also went down as his first playoff victory.
“On that first playoff hole, it was a little nerve-racking, but I also had the mindset that I was going to win this in front of everyone,” said Underwood, Richland’s first state winner since Zach Bixler in 2004.
Underwood was the MCC regular-season champion, averaging a 71 over six pod matches. He won at Canyon Lakes Golf Course, Columbia Point Golf Club and Sun Willows, and finished no worse than third in the other three pods. He also won the 4A district title by four strokes.
In five MCC pod matches, Martinez carried a 74 average and won at Horn Rapids Golf Course and Sun Willows. Then, in the 4A district tournament at Veterans Memorial Golf Course and Sun Willows, she shot a 4-under-par 140 (72-68) for a 12-stroke victory.
“It gave me confidence because we played off state-distance tees when we played at Sun Willows,” Martinez said. “When I shot 68 there, I proved to myself I’m ready to do this.”
Southridge’s Spencer Reiboldt is the Herald’s All-Area girls golf coach. Reiboldt coached sophomore Samantha Hui, freshman Therese Warner and senior Meredith Hibbard to the 3A team championship at Indian Canyon Golf Course in Spokane. The Suns also won the MCC regular-season team title.
Richland’s John Richardson is the Herald’s All-Area boys coach of the year. The Bombers won the MCC regular-season and 4A district team championships, and had four players compete at state.
Richland senior Evan Hattori, Kamiakin sophomore McGwire Hanson and junior Bolton Dauenhauer, and Hanford freshman Gabe Cach join Underwood on the All-Area boys first team.
Martinez is on the All-Area girls first team with Hui, Warner, Richland senior/University of Idaho signee Danika Palm, and Kamiakin junior Alexa Clark.
Martinez will pack up her clubs and head to Boise State University next year. She hopes to make the Broncos’ traveling team as a freshman, and her experience as a high school senior could help her in that pursuit.
“This is definitely the year I’ve had the most competition,” said Martinez, who represented Pasco at state along with her sister Maylie, a freshman. “It was really exciting because I had to compete. I had to play well every single tournament, and so that was really good practice for me, too.”
Underwood, who recently got an offer from the University of Wyoming, knows he’ll be counting down the days until he can defend his championship.
“I’m really trying to work hard this summer just to play good in a lot of the state tournaments for colleges,” he said. “But I’ve got my eyes definitely set on state, try to go back to back.”
2016 Herald All-Area Golf Teams
Boys MVP: Carl Underwood, jr., Richland. Boys Coach of the Year: John Richardson, Richland.
Girls MVP: Jalayne Martinez, sr., Pasco. Girls Coach of the Year: Spencer Reiboldt, Southridge.
First team: Carl Underwood, jr., Richland; McGwire Hanson, so., Kamiakin; Evan Hattori, sr., Richland; Gabe Cach, fr., Hanford; Bolton Dauenhauer, jr., Kamiakin.
Second team: Scott Kimball, sr., DeSales; Hogan Jones, sr., Tri-Cities Prep; Alex Johanson, so., Walla Walla; Nick Yamauchi, sr., Richland; Rhett Levin, sr., Richland.
First team: Jalayne Martinez, sr., Pasco; Danika Palm, sr., Richland; Samantha Hui, so., Southridge; Therese Warner, fr., Southridge; Alexa Clark, jr., Kamiakin.
Second team: Brianna Esvelt, sr., Kamiakin; Macy Robertson, so., Richland; Rachel Armijo, sr., Tri-Cities Prep; Meredith Hibbard, sr., Southridge; Breanna Watts, jr., Richland.