The Gig Harbor High boys golf team returns several key contributors from a year ago, including juniors Jake Nelson and Christian Youtsler, and senior Kevin Daily. Last year saw the Tides finish in the middle of the pack in the Narrows 4A league during a rebuilding year. With all their biggest pieces returning, head coach Kevin Davis thinks the team can finish toward the top of the league pack this season.
“We're going back in the right direction,” Davis said. “They know how the match it played, they know what to expect, versus that first year, even halfway through the season, they're kind of like, 'What are we doing?' They're very familiar now with how matches play out. They just have experience.”
Nelson has jumped out to the No. 1 spot for the Tides so far this season. The two through six spots are very much up in the air, with Youtsler, Daily, and others vying for those positions in the pecking order. Nelson said he thinks the team will do better this year, given their experience. As for his aspirations, he'd like to go farther than he did last season, when he just missed out on districts.
“I went to league, didn't do very well at league at all, and that's putting it lightly,” Nelson said. “This year, I'm hoping to make it further than that. All I can do is do my best. Obviously, I'd like to make state, but I'm not really going to set goals for myself right now. I just kind of want to focus, really just shot by shot and just do the best I can.”
Offseason work and practice has been an emphasis for the team, and Davis has liked what he's soon so far, in that regard. The players have improved from where they were a year ago.
“They responded well, a lot of them play year-around now, versus just seasonal guys,” Davis said. “That's kind of what it takes to play on the varsity. You gotta be playing year-around.”
Youtsler, who has worked in the offseason on his iron and short game, said the results are noticeable.
“We have a lot of people that have improved since last year, that's definitely a plus,” Youtsler said. “We have some new players to develop, but we have a strong top six, so we should do pretty well this year.”
Youtsler said he hopes the added year of experience will benefit the Tides in close matches, which they dropped a few of last year. The team's talent mostly presides in the junior class, but senior Kevin Dailey will play an integral part in the Tides' success. Just like the rest of the team, he spent the summer and the rest of the offseason practicing.
“The main thing is just getting out and playing more,” Dailey said. “Practice, practice, practice. I've been working on my drives a lot and the main things is just getting out and playing more.”
Dailey, who came up one stroke short of making it to districts last season, hopes his added offseason practice will help him make it to state this year.
“I'd like to make it to state, that's my big goal,” Dailey said. “I know it's going to be tough, I'm going to have to come in clutch toward the end of the season. I think I have the skill, it's just performing and capitalizing when I can.”
In practice, chipping and putting has been an emphasis.
“They're aware the short game is where they needed to focus their efforts, and where they can drop their scores the quickest and help themselves,” Davis said. “The other is trying to stay positive. The sport is definitely cruel if you start beating yourself up. That really makes it difficult. The mental aspect of it, play your game, short memory about the bad stuff and concentrate on the positive.”
Sports reporter Jon Manley can be reached at 253-358-4151 or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @gateway_jon.