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Prep golf notes: LC’s Sierra Kersten keeps it steady

Sierra Kersten keeps it simple on the golf course and, it seems, other aspects of her life.

Kersten, a junior at Lewis and Clark who won the State 4A title last year, has turned in rounds of 71, 73, 73 and 72 at four Greater Spokane League tournaments. She’s on pace to repeat as GSL player of the year, which is based on scoring average.

“I just want to play well and improve all aspects of my game this year and going into summer,” Kersten said. “Just have fun and not focus on the results too much.”

A process-driven approach has served her well.

Asked her strength on the course, she replied, “I don’t know. Sometimes my accuracy, but other times my putting can be my strength.”

In other words, she’s comfortable with any club in hand. She put every stick in her bag to good use at last year’s State 4A tournament at Club Green Meadows in rainy Vancouver. Kersten shot 78 in the opening round, but fought her way into contention with a second-round 73.

Kersten didn’t know where she stood – first-round leader and defending champion Alivia Brown was in the group behind Kersten – but she thought she might have a chance after a clutch birdie on No. 18.

Turns out that birdie earned her a spot in a playoff against Olivia Benzin, Brown’s Bellarmine Prep teammate. On the first playoff hole, Kersten yanked her drive left, punched out and hit 9-iron to roughly 25 feet of the hole. Benzin left her approach short and chipped within 6-8 feet.

Advantage Benzin, but only temporarily. Kersten buried her putt and Benzin missed.

“I didn’t want to bogey the first playoff hole,” Kersten said. “I was shocked when her putt didn’t go in. She’d been putting really well. It was definitely one of my biggest wins.”

“Buckets of rain coming down and she just has ice in her veins,” Tigers coach Michelle Grafos said. “That moment is when you could just see a change in Sierra, in her confidence. It was an incredible moment and it was her coming out as a force in the state.

“She’s always been a great player, but that was just her coming into her own.”

Kersten achieves at a high level in her other pursuits. She has a 4.0 grade-point average. Older sister Sydney, a sophomore on Princeton’s golf team, was LC’s valedictorian. The two played together for one season at LC when Sydney was a senior and Sierra a freshman. Youngest sister Skylar, an eighth-grader, will join Sierra next season.

“I pretty much use up all my spare time studying or golfing,” Sierra said, “but it’s worth it.”

Her grandfather introduced her to golf. She started playing competitively at about 10. She took a more serious interest in the sport in middle school. Her scores have triggered interest from college recruiters, but she’s in no hurry to make a decision.

She’s been involved with U-District Performance Training’s golf-specific program the last two years. She’s added muscle and core strength, resulting in a 10-yard gain off the tee, and increased stamina helps her deal with the last few holes of a round.

“She’s had a great spring,” Grafos said. “The cool thing is she’s playing well, but I still think she knows she can get better.”

Tap-ins

Ferris junior Tanner Comes aced the 142-yard seventh hole at The Creek at Qualchan en route to a 3-under 69 and medalist honors Monday at the GSL tournament. The Saxons won by 31 shots over Mead. … Ferris has earned 40 points, the maximum possible through four events. Gonzaga Prep and Mead each have 30 points, followed by Mt. Spokane at 29. … Mt. Spokane leads the girls standings with 40 points. Lewis and Clark has 36. G-Prep and Mead are tied for third with 30 points. … Coeur d’Alene’s Emily Callahan set a school record for lowest score when she carded a 70 at the Links on Monday. Teammate Allison Duffin shot a 78. The Vikings’ team score of 326 also broke the school record. … Lakeland senior Derek Bayley shot a 68 to earn medalist honors Monday at Twin Lakes Village. Lewiston won the team title by nine strokes over the Hawks. … Bayley’s 72 tied Lewiston’s Lance Ruddell for the low round Thursday at the Sandpoint Elks. Ruddell beat Bayley in a four-hole playoff.