When I shook hands with Marc Medley, the Woodinville golf coach looked ready for action. We were at Willows Run Golf Course in Redmond, which was hosting the girls Kingco 4A Tournament May 6-7. Today was the final round, and the 33 remaining girls would now compete to determine which dozen would advance to the state tourney.
One Falcon remaining in the mix was Yuri Machida. The diminutive and soft-spoken sophomore looked confident as she shook this reporter’s hand before joining players from Eastlake and Issaquah to form their foursome at the first tee. As the girls teed off and started down the fairway, Medley and I followed along. "When you have someone like Yuri she sets a good example for her teammates," Medley said. "She’s hardcore. She plays in tournaments during the summer and practices on her own. She’s very self-driven."
Medley is now in his fourth season as girls coach, having also coached the boys team for the past seven years with great success.
"This season was a little bit of a struggle," he said. "I had 3-4 girls who had never played 9 holes before when the season started. Then I had 3 others who only started playing last year. When they are so new to the game, the goal for me is to give them a foundation. It really comes down to their own personal drive, because in the summertime they need to practice on their own to truly get better. Really, my goal is to get them interested and keep them interested and make it fun for them.
"It’s also tough because the weather can be difficult at times," he said. "Sometimes they’re playing in the cold and rain. So it can be a little off-putting to some of the girls."
I asked which player made the most progress.
"The only senior we had this year was Varisha Khan," he said. "She came in two years ago and was pretty new to the game. She was scoring in the 60s for nine holes. She started playing more and practicing. She became proud of her accomplishments. This year she posted some scores in the high 40s to lower 50s. She dropped her average quite a bit and just barely missed the cut yesterday — which she really wanted. But it was good to see that passion and drive to compete and make it to the next level."
With Khan the lone senior, the rest of the roster teems with youth. Juniors include Katie Daniels, Lily Kristjanson, Ashley Glinn, Elena Wagar and Elena Simons. In addition to Machida, the sophomores are Bailey Longoni and Adrianna DeNike.
Not only will a year’s experience help, but Medley said he’s seeing encouraging signs.
"I heard comments yesterday from several of them," he said. "Comments like `I want to get better. I want to practice.’ It’s good to have someone on the team like Yuri who goes out and practices on her own. She helps the other girls, and they can view her as a role model in terms of how much she practices and the time and effort she puts in. They can compare themselves to her skill level and say, ‘okay, if I want to get to that level, here’s what I have to do.’"
As we followed Machida, consistency was clearly the name of her game. Her smooth swing produced tee shots that routinely split the fairway, while she demonstrated a nice feel around the greens. At day’s end, Machida shot 81 with a two day score of 158 — good for 4th place in Kingco. She’ll now travel to Vancouver, Wash., to play in the state tournament, May 21-22.
When asked about her Woodinville teammates, Machida smiled and said: "I think they’re making a lot of progress and I’m excited for next year."