BELLINGHAM - Will McCarter called it.
"I want a playoff," the Sehome senior said with a grin, after his foursome completed play just ahead of the final group in the annual Birger Solberg Cup/Whatcom County Championships on Thursday, March 28, at Bellingham Golf and Country Club.
McCarter not only got his playoff wish. He won with a birdie putt on the par-5 first hole for the first title of his career.
He prevailed over a much-respected standout, a polished shot-maker whom longtime Sehome coach Stu Gorski calls "my favorite competitor" - two-time defending tournament champion Ryan Wallen of Blaine.
Gorski was absolutely thrilled to see McCarter get the chance.
"Ryan Wallen is the best four-year golfer I've seen, with a state title and two seconds (in his first three years)," Gorski said. "Ryan is an amazing competitor."
McCarter shot 35-37-72 and Wallen, who played in the final group, went 37-35-72 for 18 holes.
"They're both alpha kids," said Gorski, who saw his protege deny Wallen the chance to become the first to win three consecutive titles in the Solberg Cup. "They really wanted that playoff."
After three strokes for each, on the first hole McCarter found himself four feet from the hole but Wallen had landed in the bunker.
"Ryan faced a very difficult shot and he did a great job chipping out," said Gorski, who was captivated by the prestigious tournament's first playoff since 1998.
Wallen left a 25-foot putt about a foot outside, then saved par to put plenty of pressure on McCarter. The Sehome golfer calmly responded by making his title-winning putt to win Sehome's first Solberg Cup title since Luke Bennett in 2002.
How classy was Wallen at the award ceremonies?
"I'd like to thank the grounds crew for having the course in such great shape," said Wallen, who overcame five bogies in regulation with five birdies. McCarter also had five birdies and overcame a double-bogey.
McCarter and Wallen were six strokes ahead of everyone else in the 40-golfer field, which included representatives from all 10 Whatcom County teams.
"I'm just way more comfortable this year because I know the game so much better," said McCarter, a third-year varsity golfer.
"Will is really strong and he's much more relaxed," said Gorski. "And as many jokes as our guys crack ... well, it's just a good 'family' group."
Bellingham sophomore Cody Roth took the third-place plaque in a chip-off against Lynden Christian senior Willy Scholten, who got the fourth-place plaque after both shot 6-over 78s.
Fifth went to Sehome senior Ben Carroll with a 79, followed by Lynden seniors Mikal Olson at 80 and Kyle Mark at 81. Mark won the seventh and final plaque in a chip-off with Lynden Christian sophomore Lincoln Olson.
If there had been an award for grace under pressure, it might well have gone to one of the two girls who earned spots in the tournament - junior Emily Ming of Lynden.
Ming, who came to Lynden from Houston, Texas, this school year, displayed noteworthy poise after her ball landed high in a tree on the 15th hole. She wanted to climb the tree but time did not permit, so she took the required 2-stroke penalty and had an 8 on the hole, yet finished with an 85 even though she had never seen the course before playing it.
"I could not be prouder of Emily," said Lynden girls' coach Scott Sahagian of Ming, who tied for 14th to reach her goal of finishing in the top half. The other girl, Squalicum senior Riley Andert, also acquitted herself well with a 92.
"I was really hoping to improve on my showing in the girls' tournament on Monday," said Ming. "This was really fun."
Veteran Lynden boys' coach Russ Dorr was in awe of Ming's response to pressure.
"Wow! I usually watch the boys, but I just found myself fascinated in watching Emily and I realized it was something truly special," Dorr said. "To shoot how well she did while playing the course for the first time was just great."
Likewise, Andert felt privileged to play in the championships.
"There were a few shots that didn't go the way I wanted, but overall I felt satisfied," she said. "It sounded like it would be fun, but it was a little intimidating at first. But the guys treated me really well. My dad (Dale) is super happy I've stayed with golf all four years and so am I. He really wanted me to play a sport."
Ferndale coach Joel Wark, the tournament director, summed it up on a sunny day as pretty as it gets for local golf in March: "The course was in beautiful, beautiful shape."
BIRGER SOLBERG CUP/WHATCOM COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIPS
At Bellingham Golf and Country Club, par 72
Plaque winners: 1. Will McCarter, Sehome, 72 (won playoff on first hole); 2. Ryan Wallen, Blaine, 72; 3. Cody Roth, Bellingham, 78 (won chip-off); 4. Willy Scholten, Lynden Christian, 78; 5. Ben Carroll, Sehome, 79; 6. Mikal Olson, Lynden, 80; 7. Kyle Mark, Lynden, 81 (won chip-off).
Bellingham: Cody Roth 78, Peter Kolodychuk 82, Taylor Paul 86, EJ Troutman 95.
Blaine: Ryan Wallen 72, Devan Boucher 82, Jordan Antonson 96, Charlie Baldwin 110.
Ferndale: Matt Scott 86, Tanner Lester 96, Zach Shockley 100, Joel Quanz 109.
Lynden: Mikal Olson 80, Kyle Mark 81, Collin Barclay 83, Emily Ming 85, Jacob Brouwer 87.
Lynden Christian: Willy Scholten 78, Lincoln Olson 82, Weber Bartz 85, Luke Olson 85, Dillon Vander Hoek 88.
Meridian: Nick Rautenberg 88, Drake Vander Yacht 92, Jon Kihm 96, Joel Eschbach 113.
Mount Baker: Dillon Gorum 89, Dennis Kashubin 90, Matt Multop 94, Kenny Wilson 94.
Nooksack Valley: Andrew Klander 92, Paul Newell 122.
Sehome: Will McCarter 72, Ben Carroll 79, Levi Van Den Top 82, Jeremy DeLisle 97.
Squalicum: Tavo O'Connell 84, Tyler Hoback 88, Riley Andert 92, Brandon Weeda 94.
1996 -- AJ Moul, Blaine
1997 -- Ron Killmer, Sehome
1998 -- Shawn Van Leuwen, Lynden
1999 -- Landon Tieri, Squalicum
2000 -- Tim Feenstra, Lynden
2001 -- Tim Feenstra, Lynden
2002 -- Luke Bennett, Sehome
2003 -- Brent Burroff, Bellingham
2004 -- Jeff Vetter, Bellingham
2005 -- Chris Killmer, Bellingham
2006 -- Matt Rawitzer, Squalicum
2007 -- Matt Rawitzer, Squalicum
2008 -- Will Holdridge, Lynden
2009 -- Matt Rawitzer, Squalicum
2010 -- Dustin Wilson, Mount Baker
2011 -- Ryan Wallen, Blaine
2012 -- Ryan Wallen, Blaine
2013 -- Will McCarter, Sehome