Friday’s trip to Grants Pass to compete at the Dutcher Creek Freeze tournament was a memorable one for the Del Norte tandem of Kai Russell and Blake Larson.
Not only did they get to compete in sunshine for the first time this spring, but the talented duo also took first place, beating out several schools from Oregon at the two-person scramble tourney.
Russell and Larson combined to shoot a 68 on a course they had never played on before on their way to topping the field.
“What made this even more special was that while golf is predominately about what the individual player is capable of, seeing them get a chance to compete and win as a team was a nice change of pace,” O’Laughlin said. “It really showed the beauty that is golf, and that’s playing this game with friends.
“They had to play off each other and talk through it, and it was kind of a neat environment to watch them do that.”
The winning duo and their Del Norte teammates closed out a challenging H-DN season in brutal conditions at Baywood Golf and Country Club on Monday.
Competing during one of the wettest and coldest springs we’ve seen in some time, however, didn’t dampen the young golfers’ spirits.
“It was great to see everybody (in the H-DN) battling through what we had to go through,” O’Laughlin said. “It was great to watch these kids battle through the amount of rain and cold we had and not be phased and to keep at it.”
Russell, in particular, impressed for the Warriors and finished sixth in the H-DN standings on his way to earning a second consecutive White Star.
He will now advance to a second straight North Coast Section Division-II championships in Petaluma on May 8, along with the league champion Eureka Loggers and the other four best individual golfers in league.
Larson placed 16th overall in league, with the Warriors finishing sixth in the team standings, and O’Laughlin was more than happy with the resiliency his golfers displayed despite the challenging conditions, as well as their overall improvement.
“Everybody, from last year to this year, has made a pretty drastic improvement overall,” he said. “It’s kind of starting to click for them.
“This year was more about improvement and they all did that.”
After seeing Russell claim a top-30 finish at the section tournament a year ago, O’Laughlin is hoping he can continue to improve and possibly take the next step.
“The best case for him is to qualify and make it to the next tournament,” the coach said. “But at least we’d like to see that improvement and keep building on that.”
This year’s Warriors team also included Anthony DeVoss, Ayden Antonetti, Gabriel Gallardo, Nicolas Jager and Gabe Howard.