Hazen golfer captures Seamount title, qualifies for state tournament

December 9, 2008

By Chris Nguyen

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Just weeks before the start of his freshman year, Kekoa Mark surprised his family when he announced he would try out for the Hazen High School varsity golf team. He had

 never golfed, nor did he own any equipment.

With nothing to lose, and only one week of practice under his belt, Mark set out with his mother’s golf clubs. He barely made the team that year — but he has been on it ever since.

Four years later, he’s now the Seamount League golf champion. He was also named Seamount League golfer of the year. 

Mark topped the field Oct. 16 at the Elk Run Golf Course in Maple Valley, which hosted this year’s Seamount League Golf Tournament. He shot a 2-over-par 73 in the first round, and finished with a 79 for a grand total of 152.

“I was not surprised at all with Kekoa’s finish,” said Jeff Wood, Hazen golf coach. “He had a real solid season, and had been relatively consistent all year in his play.” 

Mark said he knew he had the skills to put him on top, and believed that it was just a matter of keeping it all together while on the course.

“I tried to just focus on my own game and not worry about any of the other competitors,” Mark said. “I wanted to stay strong mentally, and that’s what I did.”

By winning the league title, Mark automatically qualified for a spot at the 3A State Golf Championships. The 2009 contest is May 27-28 at the Meadow Springs Country Club in Richland.

“I’ve been told the wind is always blowing into your face at Meadow Springs during the spring season,” he said. “I know that there’s also a lot of water there.”

Mark has yet to play the course, but said he plans to work in some practice rounds prior to state.

Wood, who was named Seamount League Coach of the Year, said “putting the ball on the right part of the green based on pin location” will be a huge factor for Mark’s success on the Meadow Springs course.

While Mark looks ahead to improving on last season’s disappointing 58th place showing at state, one of his teammates must wait a few more months to see if he gets to go.

Tanner Bartlein, a sophomore, finished eight strokes behind Mark at the league tournament and wound up in a three-way tie for third place. He’ll need to finish in the top five at a state qualifier event in May at the Eagles Pride Golf Course in Fort Lewis.

“Both of the players are just outstanding young men,” Wood said. 

Mark said he’s exploring the possibility of golfing at the collegiate level, and has his sights set on eventually qualifying for the Nationwide or Nike tours. 

But for now, his main focus is to place in the top 10 at state. It’s an attainable goal, considering how much he has already accomplished in such a short amount of time.

“Golf is my true passion,” he said. “I’m lucky I found it.”

 

Chris Nguyen is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.

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