BELLINGHAM - Look out, Bellingham High girl golfers. Here come the Bellingham boys.
If the results of the annual Birger Solberg Tournament/Whatcom County High School Championships are any indication, the Red Raider boys may have a shot at a Class 2A state championship of their own.
The boys have long been overshadowed by the Red Raider girls, who have won 11 state titles in the past 12 years. On Thursday, March 27, the boys sparkled in the only countywide competition of the season.
Team scores were not kept, but the Red Raiders swept the first three places behind junior Cody Roth, senior Taylor Paul and sophomore Nick Nolan and added the sixth-place plaque with junior Rees Kruhlak in the classy event, in which 37 golfers competed for the title honoring the memory of the legendary Sehome coach at Bellingham Golf & Country Club.
"That's the idea," said Paul, Bellingham's only senior and the twin of Red Raiders fourth-year girls' star Jenn Paul. "Our goal is to have everyone qualify for state (for the four-man team scoring) and see what happens."
Bellingham was impressive, to say the least, on a beautiful day for golf with almost ideal course conditions after hard, quick work removed water.
Roth, a junior, was Bellingham's most consistent golfer, shooting a 2-over-par 37-37-74 to win by one stroke over fellow state tournament veteran Paul, who shot 40-35-75. Nolan shot 39-38-77 and Kruhlak fired 39-40-79.
Seven plaques were awarded in the 14th event named for Solberg and the 19th overall.
Lynden sophomore Ezra Arneson, who shot the day's only eagle - on the par-5 11th hole - and Lynden Christian's Lincoln Olson tied for fourth at 78, with Arneson winning a chip-off. Ferndale's Daniel Erickson and Mount Baker's Kenny Wilson both shot 83 for seventh, with Erickson thrilled to win the Golden Eagles' first Solberg plaque in 10 years. Wilson and his team had to leave early for a weekend tournament, so there was no chip-off.
Roth - the only high school player to enter the Bellingham Amateur last fall - showed his poise and polish with a par-3 on the 18th hole to beat Paul, who had already finished.
"I knew Taylor would get it going on the back nine (he did with his 35, which matched par for the back nine on the 37-35 course), so I thought I would need a par on the last hole," said Roth, who was inspired to have his father, former Iowa State University golfer Craig Roth, on hand to pull for him. "I won it with a 2-foot putt."
Cody Roth, who had one birdie (on the par-5 1st hole) and two bogies along with 15 pars, said he's right about where he wants to be.
"I'm doing about as well as I expected," said Roth, who shot a 73 at Skagit in his first match this season but was disappointed with an 80 at Bellingham G&CC. "I love this kind of (county-wide) competition. This makes it fun."
Paul, who helped Bellingham claim fifth place last season at state, was also enthused about his showing.
"I'm playing a lot better this year," said Paul, who had two birdies and struggled on only one hole.
Arneson's exciting eagle came on the 505-yard, par-5 11th hole.
"I drove about 260 yards, then used a 3-wood for 255 yards to set up a 41/2-foot putt," said Arneson, a talented sophomore who has longtime coach Russ Dorr excited by his potential. "I've had several eagles in the past and one ace, but this one gave me a lot of confidence."
The only girl who participated, Lynden senior standout Emily Ming, was not pleased with her 42-45-87, but that only displayed her potential. She was still good enough to tie for ninth with a 12-foot putt on the 18th.
"My back nine was disappointing," Ming said. "I couldn't get anything good going. But it was fun playing with the guys -- they were really nice. It's pretty cool, but I wish I could have done better."
Dorr still thought it was a solid effort.
"It was a classy finish for Emily, with a downhill 12-foot slider," Dorr said. "She's really an impressive young lady."
BIRGER SOLBERG GOLF TOURNAMENT/WHATCOM COUNTY HIGH SCHOOL CHAMPIONSHIIPS
At par-72 Bellingham Golf & Country Club
Plaque winners: Cody Roth (Bellingham) 74; Taylor Paul (Bellingham) 75; Nick Nolan (Bellingham) 77; Ezra Arneson (Lynden) 78; Lincoln Olson (LC) 78 (Arneson won chip-off); Rees Kruhlak (Bellingham) 79; Daniel Erickson (Ferndale) 83; Kenny Wilson (Mount Baker) 83 (no chip-off).
Bellingham: Cody Roth 74, Taylor Paul 75, Nick Nolan 77, Rees Kruhlak 79, Austin Kohonen 87, Garrett Walker 87.
Blaine: Devan Boucher 88, Aaron Onyon 102, Chad Reimer 113.
Ferndale: Daniel Erickson 83, Keenan Souve 87, Tanner Lester 48-41-89, Dane Larsen 94, Joel Quanz 99.
Lynden: Ezra Arneson 78, Emily Ming 87, Collin Barclay 88, Alex Crabtree 89, Casey Ward 92, Tore Olson 99.
Meridian: Jon Kihm 92, Nick Rautenberg 95, Joel Eschbach 103, Sam Chambers 115.
Mount Baker: Kenny Wilson 83, Matt Multop 91, Dennis Kashubin 93, Mason Bass 96, Tanner Bass 97.
Sehome: Thomas Mankle 88, Jeremy DeLisle 89, Alex Smith 89, Connor Wallace 93.
Squalicum: Tavo O'Connell 90, Max Rosser 92, Brandon Weeda 97, Tyler Hoback 98.