Woodinville High School student Max McDonough wasn't exactly a child golf prodigy at the beginning of his career.
"He was so bad in ninth grade that he couldn't even get on the golf team," his mother Cindy McDonough said with a laugh.
"... He just started practicing every day until he won."
Now a senior, Max McDonough finished his last high school golf season by winning districts and shooting one under par. He now plans to play the sport collegiately at Corban University.
Instead of being discouraged by not making the team as a freshman, he stayed on as a manager and practiced with the players the rest of that season. And then he kept practicing.
"Honestly, I was just having a lot of fun playing golf, and I kept playing because it was fun," he said.
He started going to the course at least five times a week. He said after his freshman season as a manger, he improved so much that he not only set his sights on making the high school team, he decided he wanted to play in college too.
Terry Agnew, McDonough's coach for his first three years, said the player has "the perfect personality for golf as nothing seems to bother him and he always tracks to the positive." Agnew said even though McDonough is on the smaller side of players, he very accurate and putts really well.
He first got into the sport through his father, although his dad only goes about once a year, McDonough said. Then he began tagging along with his older brother Calvin, who also was on the Falcon squad and now plays in college.
McDonough didn't really began playing in earnest until the summer before his freshman year, he said.
"I played my first tournament two months before tryouts, and I played really bad in that," he said.
But after his poor tournament showing, he went out and kept practicing and soon began to see results.
"It was a lot of fun to get better," McDonough said.
From his sophomore year to senior year, his scores have improved by about 20 shots in 18 holes and by 10 shots in nine holes.
His improvement continued even over the course of the short senior season as well, according to the current WHS men's golf coach Scott Millhollen. He won his final four matches of his high school career, finishing with a score of 34 at Redmond Ridge.
"He truly is a self-made golfer in terms of work ethic and maximizing his physical tools," Millhollen said in an email. "He really does a great job thinking his way around the golf course."
The coach said that he started pairing younger golfers with McDonough so he could coach them. Millhollen said McDonough was a "steady and encouraging" mentor and he ended up "leaving a legacy bigger than just his stats."
Millhollen also noted how much work the player put in on his "off days," even staying after matches to continue honing his game. The extra practice he'd clocked over the four years and determined mindset really fell into place at the district championship, McDonough said.
"In the district championship, that was the best high school round I've ever played," he said. "... It felt like I broke through a barrier."
Experiencing the results of his hard work is part of what McDonough appreciates most about the sport.
"I really like the part about pushing yourself to get better," he said. "... to put in a lot of hours, and play good under pressure, there's just nothing else like it."