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Mt. Spokane’s Gunnar Knutson finishes a swing during the 2018 District 8 3A tournament. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Gonzaga Prep boys take swing at 4A state golf title

If a picture could summarize the Gonzaga Prep boys’ golf team, it’s one coach Dennis Dougherty received on his phone from the father of a player.

“It was a Saturday night and it was late, and it was a photo of all the guys on the putting green with the lights on. It was basically, ‘This is what Gonzaga Prep golfers do on a Saturday night,’ ” Dougherty said. “They all love to play.”

The Bullpups have one goal left to punctuate a strong season: Capturing the 4A state title at Canyon Lakes in Kennewick. If history is an indication, Gonzaga Prep will have to go through three-time defending champion Bellarmine Prep to take the crown.

The two programs battled last year at Liberty Lake with Bellarmine Prep winning by 20 points, despite second- and third-place finishes by G-Prep’s Jack Plaster and younger brother Nathan. Bellarmine Prep’s Joe Highsmith won the individual title but he has moved to California.

Both teams qualified six players for Tuesday’s first round.

“I know there are some other good teams in the Seattle area, but Bellarmine has been the team,” Dougherty said. “Really the goal was to get six to state so we have a chance to do one better than last year.”

Gonzaga Prep has impressive talent and depth, and that includes players that were on the fringe of making the varsity lineup. The top five have pretty much stayed the same but the competition level has helped from top to bottom.

“We go out every week and we just want to beat each other because that’s what it’s like at practice every day,” freshman Tommy Kimmel said.

Central Valley senior Zach Stocker and Mead’s Nick Muxlow and Zane Mularski could be factors in the individual race.

On the girls’ side, Mead has a trio of qualifiers for the first time in a decade, led by District 8 Tournament champion Camryn Culp. Central Valley freshman Kami Twining, the GSL player of the year, and Culp could make a run at the top 10 at Sun Willows in Pasco.

“Camy had a chance to play in a tournament there and she’s talked to (state-bound teammates) Libby and Charlotte (Bloom) about it,” Mead coach Keith Ross said. “Off the tee it’s going to be a little longer than most of the Spokane courses. We have three girls that could make the cut and earn points.”

Knutson one of 3A contenders

Mt. Spokane junior Gunnar Knutson walked away with GSL player of the year honors and the District 8 title. He’s played solid, steady golf all season and has the benefit of staying close to home with state at Qualchan.

“I figure I have to get the monkey off my back my junior year just because I don’t want to put all that pressure on myself in my senior year,” said Knutson, who has been top 15 in his first two state appearances. “I just have to be patient and wait for the right time.”

Panke chases three-peat

Davenport senior Kaysa Panke is pursuing her third straight state title when the 1B/2B/1A girls tee it up Hangman Valley. Panke won by eight shots as a sophomore and 15 last season.

“Any course suits her,” Davenport coach Colin Guhlke said. “They’re playing it pretty short at 5,100 yards. Her length is definitely an advantage.”