BURLINGTON - Nick Nolan is far from the first Whatcom County boy to find himself in two state tournaments in the same week, but the Bellingham sophomore is one of the youngest and least experienced.
He helped the Red Raiders claim the Class 2A Bi-District golf championship on Tuesday, May 20, at Skagit Golf and County Club. Now Nolan faces what he hopes will be four consecutive pressure-packed but fun-filled days in state golf and tennis.
Nolan, who formerly played multiple team sports for years, first emerged as an enthusiastic, competitive tennis player and golfer as a freshman.
"I'm really stoked to have the chance to play at probably the two nicest venues (Chambers Bay and the Nordstrom Tennis Center) for both sports in the state," said Nolan. He will be joined by Bi-District champion Cody Roth, Taylor Paul and Rees Kruhlak, giving the Red Raiders what coach David Bobillot feels "can be a real shot" at the 2A golf title.
In all, Whatcom County golfers claimed seven of the 17 state spots from the 14-school bi-district tournament.
Lynden sophomores Ezra Arneson and Alex Crabtree and Squalicum junior Tavo O'Connell also qualified. Bellingham sophomore Ben Hendrickson earned the second alternate spot in a four-way playoff.
To no one's surprise, Roth scooped up the title by three strokes with a 6-over-par 72-76-148 in the two-day event, in which the depth-laden Red Raiders out-pointed runner-up Archbishop Murphy 811/2 to 37.
"The course is winning today," Bobillot said, explaining why scores were generally not as strong as in the first round Monday. "The course changed so much overnight and the greens were firmer. Shots were not holding and stopping the way they did in the first round."
Nolan, however, followed his first-round 77 with a team-leading 74 for 151, tying Matt Maresse of Sammamish for second place. It was solid clutch golf; he averaged 75 in the regular season.
"I felt I played real well based on the conditions," said Nolan, who will play state golf on both Wednesday and Thursday, May 28-29, if he makes the cut, and state tennis on both Friday and Saturday, May 30-31, if he advances.
"The greens were really firm. I tried to hit short," said Nolan. "I made several club changes on certain holes. I did what I needed to do and did not have any double-bogeys."
Because tennis is a fall boys' sport except for the state tournament, Nolan and doubles partner Connor Thompson were allowed to resume practice May 1.
"We've been working hard. I feel ready in both sports," Nolan said.
Roth, who led the Northwest Conference with a 71.6 regular-season average, said he "was really scrambling on a different kind of day for golf. It was firm and fast."
"I was 5 over after eight holes, and that's how I finished," said Roth. He also prevented any double bogeys and said it was a "day for damage control," considering he had six bogeys and one birdie.
Roth said he has often played at Chambers Bay, which will be the site of the 2015 U.S. Open.
"I love that Chambers Bay course," he said of the University Place layout, not far from Tacoma. "I love the links-style course."
Paul hopes his family can celebrate two state titles - twin sister Jenn figures to be a factor for the Bellingham girls' state bid.
"I'm just happy I made the cut," said Taylor Paul, who shot 79-78-157. "I left a lot out there today, but I putted better today than yesterday. I'm excited for state. I feel we have a chance for the title if we (four) all play well."
Kruhlak, a Bellingham junior, shot 74-86-160 but had no trouble making the cut, which was 170.
O'Connell finished at 83-83-166 and played what Squalicum coach Jeff Tetrick felt was a smart game in qualifying for his first state tournament.
"I had a lot of saves today," said O'Connell, a 6-foot-3 football lineman who towers over most competitors. "I shot the same for two days and felt good, because the course was tighter and the pressure was building."
Tetrick agreed with his big junior.
"We had a good game," he said, talking of the strategy the two talked about. "We played shorter and tighter and kept the driver out of the bag. Instead, Tavo used irons off the tee and scrambled well."
Lynden coach Russ Dorr was excited for his sophomore pair of state qualifiers.
"I'm very pleased. The future is bright," Dorr said following the efforts of Arneson (76-78-154) and Crabtree (76-92-168), who didn't let a tough second round get them down and made the cut by two strokes.
Four other local golfers qualified for the second day but didn't make the state cut: Bellingham's Austin Kohonen (82-93-175), Sehome's Thomas Mankle (84-91-175) and Jeremy DeLisle (87-88-175) and Squalicum's Tanner Griffiths (87-89-176).
CLASS 2A BI-DISTRICT BOYS' TOURNAMENT
At Skagit Golf and Country Club, par 71
Top team scores: Bellingham 811/2, Archbishop Murphy 37
The cut was 170 for the state tournament
Medalist: Cody Roth (Bellingham) 72-76-148.
Bellingham: Cody Roth 72-76-148, Nick Nolan 77-74-151, Taylor Paul 79-78-157, Rees Kruhlak 74-86-160, Ben Hendrickson 84-87-171 (finished second in four-way playoff for second alternate spot), Austin Kohonen 82-93-175.
Lynden: Ezra Arneson 76-78-154, Alex Crabtree 76-92-168.
Sehome: Thomas Mankle 84-91-175, Jeremy DeLisle 87-88-175.
Squalicum: Tavo O'Connell 83-83-166, Tanner Griffiths 87-89-176.