Liberty golf team wins KingCo title

November 10, 2015

By Christina Corrales-Toy

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After a 2012 campaign that yielded zero wins, Alex Wilsey, then a Liberty High School freshman, didn’t see much hope in the Patriots’ boys golf team’s future.

“We never really succeeded at all,” said Wilsey, now a senior. “We didn’t go into matches believing that we would win. We were simply outmatched and outperformed every time.”

Contributed Jon Kinsley (fourth from left), Liberty High School boys golf coach holds the team’s KingCo championship trophy while surrounded by his golfers.

Contributed
Jon Kinsley (fourth from left), Liberty High School boys golf coach holds the team’s KingCo championship trophy while surrounded by his golfers.

Liberty’s fortunes started changing his sophomore year as the Patriots picked up a handful of wins. Nothing too dramatic, he said, but it gave the team confidence they could win for the first time.

The players extended that newfound belief into his junior year, when the Patriots took second at state.

Now Wilsey is a member of what longtime boys golf coach Jon Kinsley calls his most-talented team ever. It’s a team that lost just once this season, won its very first Class 2A/3A KingCo Conference championship and appears poised to take the next step to win a state title.

“It’s kind of special,” Wilsey said. “You don’t really get to see growth like that often in your life, but for me to experience winning no matches, to winning almost every match, is really remarkable.”

Kinsley credits much of the program’s turnaround to a newfound interest in golf thanks to young, exciting PGA Tour professionals. He is also getting more athletes that play the sport year-round. He estimated at least half of his golfers participate in weekend tournaments.

Junior Ben Graham, Liberty’s No. 1 golfer for most of this year and last, is a big part of the resurgence. Graham said his strength is in the short game – putting and chipping. Kinsley also identified Graham, who has aspirations to play in college, as the team’s leader.

“He cares like crazy about golf and this team,” Kinsley said.

While Graham has emerged as a star the past two years, Kinsley said the team’s depth is a big component to its success.

“When you’re deep and you’re consistent, you’re tough to beat and that was the difference,” he said.

Kinsley pointed to sophomore Chase McIntosh and junior Luke Hall as key contributors. McIntosh’s strength is in his ability to drive the ball deep, Kinsley said. He has served as the team’s No. 2 golfer in terms of his scores.

Hall is not quite as consistent as McIntosh and Graham, Kinsley said, but is close. He was mentioned in late September in The Seattle Times’ top-10 high-school performances of the week.

The only blemish on the team’s near-perfect season was a league loss to Mercer Island, but other than that, the Patriots often beat schools larger than theirs, such as Issaquah and Newport.

Then they went on the win the KingCo tournament Oct. 12, earning a 12-stroke victory over their nearest opponent. To top it off, the Patriots won the league’s Sportsmanship Award.

“I’d rather go 0-20 with great kids than 20-0 with a bunch of jerks,” Kinsley said. “I just pinch myself over the fact that we have great kids who are great golfers.”

Coaches and players are confident in their chances to improve one spot and take a Class 2A state title in Richland next spring.

“I really believe that we will, and the best part about it is, they believe that they will,” Kinsley said.

While the Patriots’ season ended in October, the state tournament is not until May. It’s a long layoff, and even though many of his golfers play year-round, it’s still something Kinsley said he’d like to see changed.

Some school’s golf teams play in the fall, while others play in the spring. Teams that compete in the spring have the advantage of playing right into the state tournament, Kinsley said, while those that play in fall, like Liberty, must endure a long wait.

“This is a pet peeve of mine in that the WIAA allows this to happen,” Kinsley said. “I don’t know what the answer is, but they’ve got to do something; this is not good for kids.”

Wilsey said the players don’t let that get to them. The Patriots’ eyes are on the prize of a state title, he said, and they’re determined to do it for both themselves and their coach.

“I’m really happy that we were able to put together this season for our coach who has been devoted to this program for a long time,” Wilsey said.

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