OCEAN PARK — As a freshman, Blake Kukula thought he would be on top of the world if he won four individual state golf championships.
He entered his senior year at Ilwaco High School with three state title wins locked up and he was confident he would become the first boy in Washington to win four.
Then, on April 6, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association announced the state’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order would mean the cancelation of all extracurricular athletics through the end of the school year; this included postseason tournaments and championship events.
It took a global pandemic to ruin Kukula’s shot; and it took the 17-year-old five minutes of being bummed to get past it.
It would be pointless to sit and complain about his season being canceled, Kukula said.
“I have a lot more ahead of me,” Kukula said. “I’m going to play golf in college. I still have tournaments throughout the summer I’m planning on playing in. So my focus is on those, and it has been since those five minutes I stopped thinking about it.”
Family on the fairway
Kukula began golfing almost as soon as he started walking. He lives just a couple of blocks from the Surfside Golf Course, which is run by his dad, Jon Kukula, who is the course’s head golf pro and superintendent. Blake Kukula doesn’t just practice on the course, he takes care of it as part of the club’s maintenance crew. On Friday, May 8, he spent the morning fitting hexagon shaped grass cutouts into the green. After about four hours of work in the morning, Kukula said his dad normally lets him start his practice.
“Golf is just my life,” Kukula said.
Both of Blake Kukula’s older brothers, Ryan Kukula and Ross Kukula, played high school and college golf. Ross won Ilwaco High’s first individual title in 2012 before he left for Seattle University, where he played from 2013 to 2017. Both brothers are now pros at golf clubs in Oregon. Young as he is, Kukula beats his brothers often, he said.
With school canceled, Kukula is practicing at least four to seven hours a day. He is using the extra time to shore up his game as he prepares to play at Seattle University, his brother’s alma mater. Kukula’s work ethic is what is so exciting for Marc Chandonnet, head golf coach at Seattle Uviversity.
“With him, I know that Seattle U is getting a first-class individual who will leave absolutely nothing on the table and knows how to win,” Chandonnet said. “There is zero doubt that he will give this institution, his teammates and the coaching staff 100%.”
Kukula talks with his brother Ross every day, whether it be about golf or anything else.
“Ross is one of my best friends … and he’s been a good resource to ask about Seattle U a lot, too. He’s been a beacon of information for me,” Kukula said.
Kukula is excited about heading to college next year, though the move from the peninsula to living on his own in Seattle will be a definite adjustment, he said. He plans to study kinesiology, which is the mechanics of body movements. It is something that has always interested him, he said.
Even with his eyes set firmly on the horizon, Kukula’s sad to be missing out on quintessential senior experiences, such as graduation. But in keeping with the spirit of not trying to harp on things he can’t control, it’s something he tries not to think about.
“There’s nothing we can really do about it, we’re not in control of it,” said Kukula. “But I’ll definitely miss graduation and I’ll definitely miss just being a senior — having that easy schedule and kind of being able to goof off a little bit here and there.”
When he leaves for Seattle University, he’ll miss his fellow players from the Surfside Golf Course. Almost everyone who plays at the course knows him, and many have played with him since he was 9 years old.
“Growing up in a place like this, the whole peninsula really supports you — it’s awesome,” Kukula said.