Spring preview The Gig Harbor High School boys golf team returns several key contributors from a year ago, including juniors Jake Nelson and Christian Youtsler and senior Kevin Daily.
The Tides finished in the middle of the pack in the Class 4A Narrows League in a rebuilding year last season. With their biggest pieces returning, head coach Kevin Davis thinks the team can finish toward the top this spring.
“We’re going back in the right direction,” Davis said. “They know how the match is 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 to the No. 1 spot for Gig Harbor. The two-through-six spots are in the air, with Youtsler, Daily and others vying for the positions.
Nelson thinks experience will lead the team to better performances. Individually, he’d like to go farther than he did last season, when he just missed out on the district tournament.
“I went to league, didn’t do very well at league at all, and that’s putting it lightly,” he 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.”
The Tides have focused on offseason work, and Davis has liked what he’s seen so far. The players have improved from where they were a year ago, he said.
“They responded well,” Davis said. “A lot of them play year-around now, versus just seasonal guys. That’s kind of what it takes to play on the varsity. You gotta be playing year-around.”
Youtsler, who has worked on his iron and short game, said he’s noticed the results.
“We have a lot of people that have improved since last year, that’s definitely a plus,” he said. “We have some new players to develop, but we have a strong top six, so we should do pretty well this year.”
Youtsler hopes the added year of experience will benefit the Tides in close matches. They dropped a few of them last year.
The team’s talent mostly presides in its junior class, but Dailey will play an integral part. 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 was one stroke short of making it to districts last season, hopes his added attention to detail will help him go further this year.
“I’d like to make it to state, that’s my big goal,” he 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, Davis said.
“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,” he 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.”Jon Manley: 253-358-4151 email@example.com Twitter: @gateway_jon