ILWACO - It has been just over three months since Ilwaco won the first boys' golf state championship in school history and Coach Dan Whealdon and his crew have put in a productive summer in preparation for the title defense of their 1A crown. The Fishermen defeated Charles Wright Academy (CWA) 86.5 to 81.5 and return all four competitors who tallied points at state, while CWA lost their second, fifth and sixth place linksters to graduation.
Jack Whealdon will be a senior and he has finished second at the 1A state tournament by a mere one stroke each of the past two seasons, after finishing 15th at state as a freshman. Todd Oakes, another senior, was 13th as a freshman, 19th as a sophomore and finished 14th last year. Ryan Kukula was 26th and Patrick Whealdon finished 39th in the state as freshmen last season. All return.
And they all had amazing summers. Coach Dan Whealdon says, "People ask me when will we begin golf practice and the fact is the kids never really stop playing. The state tournament is just one of a string of tournaments the guys get into." The split season where Ilwaco plays about 70 percent of their matches in the fall and the remainder the month before the state finals in the spring also helps the team prepare.
Oakes, Kukula and Patrick Whealdon are all lefties and participated in Washington Junior Golf Association (WJGA) competitions over the summer. Jack Whealdon not only competed in WJGA play, he was dominant. He finished second in the state against golfers in his age group from all classifications of schools. He then tied for being the top golfer from Washington and was ninth among high school golfers from eight western states and British Columbia in the Hogan Cup in mid-August.
The amazing thing about the Ilwaco golf program is that even though Jack Whealdon finished atop all high school linksters in the state at all levels and among the best on the entire West Coast, there are days he is not even the top golfer at the Fishermen's practices at Surfside Golf Course. "Those days aren't many," he jokes. "But everyone on our varsity team is capable of shooting scores low enough to win." That's scary for Trico League, District IV and 1A competitors statewide.
Patrick Whealdon was 11th in the state in his age bracket and Kukula missed the cut by a handful of strokes for the WJGA state finals. Oakes missed the WJGA state tournament cut by seven strokes. The high level of competition during the summer all equates to tournament-toughened young men ready and very able to defend their state championship next May.
Bobby Byrd, Matt and David Lewis, Ryan Tapio and Elias Blume are also on the team and will compete for the fifth and sixth spots on the varsity. "We have an amazing group of kids who have a passion for golf. For most of them there are two seasons-golf from March to October and then basketball," Whealdon says.
And if that weren't enough, the Fishermen will reload and not rebuild in 2010. Eighth grader Ross Kukula played in the WJGA state tournament and missed the finals by four strokes and classmates Anthony Yoder and Clark Wilson were within three strokes of qualifying from district to state during the summer.
The only concern Coach Whealdon has is what the private schools do during the off-season. "Our chances to repeat (as champions) at state may come down to who transfers to Overlake, Charles Wright, or Seattle and Bellevue Christian, but we will be ready to go. I know the guys are motivated."