It took Brooke Branigan and the rest of the Bellingham girls' golf team a little getting used to during the preliminary round of the Class 2A State Tournament on Tuesday, May 22, at Lake Spanaway Golf Course in Spanaway.
"The pace and seriousness of it was a little different and I think that got into my head," Branigan said in a phone interview. "When I play my best, I am having fun and playing my own game."
Branigan putted more times than she wanted in the first nine holes but adjusted on the back nine, as was the case with almost all of the six Bellingham golfers, and finished at 80 for fifth place.
Just like the rest of the Red Raiders golf team, Branigan is advancing to the second day.
Bellingham became the first team in the history of the state tournament to place all six of its golfers inside the top half of the field and qualified each to the second and final round of state, according to Red Raiders coach Brad McKay.
Teams have been allowed to qualify six golfers to the state tournament since 2004 and since then only a handful of teams have even qualified five for the second day.
"It's really amazing," Branigan said. "It's hard to believe our team is as good as we are, but everyone delivers and it surprises me every time."
Bellingham's Jenn Paul is one place behind Branigan after shooting 83, Jenna Reardanz shot 86, Madi McNeely shot 92, Katherine Rodgers shot 96 and Audrey Orem bettered her score by a couple strokes on the back nine to finish directly on the cut at 98.
But after placing its top golfers in the top four spots at the tri-district tournament and holding at least the top two individual spots in all of its Northwest Conference tournaments throughout the season, the Red Raiders struggled on the green Tuesday and their top golfer, Branigan, is five strokes off Interlake's Aleana Groenhout for first place.
"We struggled to find the pace and play well," McKay said in a phone interview. "Overall, we didn't play great, but we survived. It's not a disappointment where we are at, but we can do better."
Branigan said she believes she can catch up if she plays like she did on the back nine.
She came close on a number of birdie attempts the front nine, but finally got one to go on the 14th hole.
"I missed a lot of my putts," Branigan said. "The greens are a lot faster than what I have been used to. I learned that I have to play my game and slow things down. I definitely left a lot of shots out there, though."
Squalicum's Esti O'Connell will also see the second day after posting a 91. Mount Baker's Laura Wilson shot 93 and Nicole Chapman shot 94 to advance.
Blaine's Young Lee and Shannon Maxon missed the cut. Lee shot 101 and Maxon finished at 110.
The final round of the tournament continues Wednesday, May 23, at the same course in Spanaway.
CLASS 2A STATE TOURNAMENT
At Lake Spanaway Golf Course, Spanaway
Top 5: 1. Aleana Groenhout (Interlake) 75, 2. Kendall Gray (Fife) 78, 3. Cherokee Kim (Steilacoom) 79, 3. Olivia Lowe (North Thurston) 79, 5. Brooke Branigan (Bellingham) 80.
Bellingham: Brooke Branigan 80; Jenn Paul 83; Jenna Reardanz 86; Madi McNeely 92; Katherine Rodgers 96; Audrey Orem 98.
Blaine: Young Lee 101; Shannon Maxon 110
Mount Baker: Laura Wilson (Mount Baker) 93; Nicole Chapman 94
Squalicum: Esti O'Connell (Squalicum) 91