UNIVERITY PLACE - The Bellingham boys' golf team sat together in a perfect half circle, glaring at the leaderboard awaiting the winner of the Class 2A Boys' Golf State Championship to be revealed.
Fourth place was announced, followed by third and then second. The Red Raiders, once still in their seats, began preparing for their moment. Senior Taylor Paul fixed his hair. Sophomore Nick Nolan made sure his shirt was neatly tucked in, junior Cody Roth removed his jacket and Rees Kruhlak tipped the bill of his hat upward.
It was no mystery Bellingham had won the 2A state title. The margin with which the Red Raiders won, though, was a bit more eye-opening.
Bellingham's total of 107.50 points bested second-place Clarkson by 39 points. East Valley Yakima came in third with a score of 59 points, and Lynden came in fourth with a total of 53.
"That's what our goal was at the start of the season," Nolan said. "We were hoping we could get as many guys to state as we could, and we got four, which we thought if they played well in the first day, that would be enough to make the state title happen for us."
Bellingham led after the first day of competition, but where the Red Raiders distanced themselves from the field was during play Thursday, May 29, at Chambers Bay in University Place, Washington.
Cody Roth, who finished in a tie for second place with a two-day total of 144 (73-71), continued his consistent play, managing a course that will play host to the 2015 U.S. Open. And while he played mainly to avoid one or two disastrous holes, on the 17th, he put together a memory he won't soon forget.
"I had an (ace) on 17, which helps," he said with a laugh. "160 yards a little into the wind, so I hit a little soft cut-5 and it landed perfect and trickled on in. ... It was a really cool feeling. It's hard to describe. I hit it really well, too. It's just a crazy feeling. It didn't feel real at first."
He also sunk a 40-foot putt to save par on No. 12, adding that he was "due" to hit one from such a distance given his recent lack of success with similar shots.
Nolan finished 12th with a two-day total of 159 (82-77), picking up his play drastically in the second day.
"I kept the ball in the fairway and didn't get into the long stuff," Nolan said. "Yesterday, I was struggling. I was all over the place and I couldn't figure it out. Today, I hit the driver a lot more and hitting it solid and straight."
Paul, aided by a second-round 78, finished in 15th (82-77, 163), and Kruhlak finished 29th (83-88, 171).
The overall depth of the Red Raiders was what propelled them to the team title, coach David Bobillot said. That and the improvements and adjustments his team made going into the second day of the tournament.
And while Bellingham claiming the team title caught nobody by surprise, Lynden taking fourth did, even to its two sophomore standouts Ezra Arneson and Alex Crabtree.
Arneson finished in a tie for fifth after posting a two-day total of 149 (72-77), while Crabtree finished 23rd after salvaging a second round that started out with him shooting an 11-over par front nine.
Both stammered when they heard they had finished fourth.
"It came from a solid back nine from both of us," Arneson said. "We didn't know we could win it with two people."
Arneson, one of the brightest young golfers in the 2A classification, came out with an opening-round 72 that slotted him in the top three. After that point, he said he struggled with most of his game, coming away with a score that left him looking forward to a redemptive junior campaign.
"I just pulled it together and grabbed some confidence and tried to finish out the round," he said. "Final four holes I went 1-under. ... It gives me a goal for next year."
Crabtree's 37 on the back nine was a show in resilience, coach Russ Dorr said afterward, punctuating what he thought was the greatest takeaway from the state tournament.
"The character from both those young men came through in their rounds," Dorr said. "Their resolve and their character. And when you talk about failing, golf is a failing sport, as well, but when you have a character such as these two young sophomores, you can overcome that."
Sammamish High School's Matt Maresse won the tournament by 11 strokes, posting an opening-day 65 and then following that up with a 68 in the final round.
Reach Alex Bigelow at email@example.com or call 360-715-2238. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for other Whatcom County sports updates.