The Red Raiders' pillar: Paul bids farewell with career-best finish and team title

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJune 13, 2014 

26 Whatcom County GGLF Champs

Bellingham's Jenn Paul watches her tee shot as local girls' teams compete in the Whatcom County Girls Golf Championships at Sudden Valley Golf Course on Tuesday, March 25, 2014 in Sudden Valley.

ANDY BRONSON — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

Jenn Paul's accolades are endless when looking back at her four-year career at Bellingham.

To her name are four team state championships, a fifth place individual finish at state, two fourth-place finishes and a second-place finish, but her coach, Brad McKay, holds onto a seemingly-insignificant memory of his star golfer that incorporates none of the above.

It spans back four years to Paul's first tournament as a Red Raider at the Avalon Golf Links in Burlington.

"We went to our first tournament and we had to rent clubs for her," McKay said in a phone interview. "She was basically going to be our No. 1, and she didn't bring her clubs with her."

To this day, McKay offers a bit of advice to his golfers before the start of each season. He asks nobody to forget their clubs - an homage to Paul.

Thing is, Paul's reach extends far greater than McKay's quip about her freshman forgetfulness.

She was a force for Bellingham's dominant girls' golf team, capping her career with yet another state championship and a second-place individual finish - bested only by Fife's Kendall Grey, who came up one stroke better at state.

With that, Paul has been selected for the second time The Bellingham Herald's All-Whatcom County Girls' Golfer of the Year, posting the best per-round average (75.0) of any golfer in the Northwest Conference en route to first-place finishes at both the district and league championships.

Her career was, to her estimation, still not entirely complete. The individual championship eluded Paul - something she vigorously sought in her final season. It came in disappointing fashion, she admitted, coming back from down two strokes down over the 16th and 17th holes to tie Grey going into the 18th hole before seeing it suddenly end.

Grey placed her approach shot perfectly on the green, while Paul had to maneuver her way for a five-foot putt that would have sent the two into a playoff.

"I thought it would break a little bit left. Ended up breaking a little more. That was pretty frustrating," Paul said in a phone interview.

The putt lipped out, ending an otherwise flawless career on a sour note.

"I really thought it was going in when I saw it," McKay said. "It was exactly on line and it lipped out. ... It would go in 60 percent of the time. It was too bad. If those two went to a playoff, Jenn would have had the advantage for sure."

McKay, who was chosen as the All-Whatcom County Coach of the Year for guiding the Red Raiders to a 12th state title in 13 years, viewed Paul's resilience over the last few holes as a testament to her career as a whole.

When she arrived as a freshman, he was aware of her talents and pedigree coming from a golf family. Her greatest asset, he said, from day one was her ability to salvage solid scores no matter the situation or circumstance.

Bad weather; poor feel for the course; struggles with her swing - it largely wouldn't matter.

"Her bad was better than most people's good," he said.

She found herself in such a position at state, struggling at the onset of both rounds. Nerves played a factor, although it wasn't the stage so much as it was the realization that it was her final chance to fulfill her goal of winning an individual title. The element of finality was, in fact, present, she said.

"I was playing more scared in the beginning after those first two holes," she said. "I started thinking more of I don't have anything to lose. Started playing aggressively, going for puts."

Paul put herself in a position to contend going into the final hole, battling through her own difficulties to do so. For McKay, he wanted nothing more for a senior he's relied so heavily upon. And for her, it's an experience she'll hold onto going to play for Western Washington University next season.

"Being nervous is important," she said. "You can't have courage unless you are afraid."

Reach Alex Bigelow at alex.bigelow@bellinghamherald.com or call 360-715-2238. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for other Whatcom County sports updates.

Bellingham Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service