ILWACO — As usual, Ilwaco’s golf program enters the season with high hopes for success at State. The girls team will count on long-time star Aslyn Fisher, now in her senior year. Freshman sensation Blake Kukula will lead the boys’ team to a defense of their B state title after bursting onto the scene his eighth grade year. Both are backed by experienced teammates.
With Dave Hansen’s retirement from coaching, Bob Enos is now head coach for both the boys and girls teams. Last year he officially coached the girls team, although he and Hansen both worked with everyone. John Kukula, the pro at Surfside golf course, where the team practices and hosts matches, has long worked with the team’s golfers. His sons Ross, Ryan and now Blake have helped lead Ilwaco’s golf dynasty. This year, he will formally be an assistant coach.
Fisher shot a 185 over two days at State last season, good for eighth place, her second straight top-ten finish. Fisher says she doesn’t measure herself against her competition as much as she focuses on her own score. “I go more for scores than top-10,” she said. “If I can cut down on my score and I end up finishing 20th, that’s fine…. I got into the lower 90s at the end of last year. I would be happy if I can get in the 80s.”
Fisher shot a 43 on the back nine on the second day of State last season, and a 44 on the front nine at Districts, an indication of what she is capable of when she puts everything together. “Strengths and weaknesses for me depend on the week. It isn’t a matter of working on a particular area of my game, but balancing everything. I want to get to where, on each hole, I have a chance at par.”
The ultra-reliable Kukula played at around par most of last season. He takes calculated risks but only rarely has to dig himself out of trouble. “I’m looking to break even,” he said. “Last year was a good year,” he said of a season in which he took second at State, then followed with a summer in which he tied for sixth at the Washington Junior Golf Association state tournament. “Now I have to stay in control.”
Kukula practices constantly, and his success is mostly about repetition. Even pursuit of birdies doesn’t involve anything out of the ordinary. “I just have to work on putting. I have to make sure I make the birdie putt, and I’ve got to hit my first shot close enough to set it up.”
Both the boys and girls teams will need a second golfer to make the cut at State in order to compete for team trophies. Zac Tapio did so last year for the boys, when his two-day score of 170 contributed to the first-place finish. Tapio always has a busy spring, with baseball and golf commitments. He had to miss early tournaments last year but came on strong at the end, and this year will likely be no different. Ethan Bannister reached State last year but missed the cut. Tenyson Ramsey hopes to reach State after making it to the second day of Districts last season. Jack Marshman and Brenden Chabot both golfed for the first time as eighth graders last year and hope to improve as freshmen.
The girls’ team finished second at Districts last year but has never won State. Along with Fisher, they return Madeline Jacobson and Madison Chabot. Jacobson came on strong at the end of last year. At sub-districts, she crushed her personal best with a 113, including a 53 on the back nine. At Quad-Districts, she shot 138 to contribute to Ilwaco’s team finish. Enos hopes that along with Fisher, either Jacobson or Chabot can reach State and make the cut, which Enos figures will require a first-day score around 115. If that happens, he says, the team could be in the running for a medal.
The program gains depth this year with eight newcomers. Junior Emori Wilson, sophomore McKenzie Mulinix, and freshman Faith Richardson join the girls’ team. Since the girls have only three returning golfers, one or more of the newcomers could play in tournaments if she rises rapidly. On the boys’ side, juniors Tony Ariello and David Borayo come onboard, along with freshmen Ethan Knopski, Charley Short and Joe Nisbett.