Zane Mularski played the first golf holes of his life at The Creek at Qualchan, and the irony is not lost on him that he will play the final 36 holes of his high school career at the same place.
“There’s a symmetry to that,” the Mead senior said after shooting a 36-hole 146 at MeadowWood Golf Course in Liberty Lake on Tuesday, placing second individually and leading his Panther teammates in qualifying for next week’s state Class 4A tournament.
Gonzaga Prep’s Nate Plaster shot a 67 in Monday’s first round and had a four-stroke lead over his nearest challenger for medalist honors with 18 holes to play. Mularski started the day eight shots back of the leader and finished the two days nine shots back.
“I wasn’t really thinking about being the medalist,” Mularski said. “Nate had a great round, and he had a nice lead. I was concentrating on putting up another good round and helping my team qualify for state.”
That, in a nutshell, is the essence of Mularski’s game.
“He’ll set a game plan and will not vary from that game plan,” Mead coach Paul Peters said. “He’ll know what he wants to do, and he sticks with it. Guys were kidding him (Tuesday) about the last hole. It’s hard to hit the fairway on that one. If you try to hit a driver, you’re most likely going to hit it out of play. Instead he hit a 4-iron off the tee, knocked it close and putted out.”
“I had a couple of my teammates ahead of me, and they were kidding me about it,” he said. “I was just going to make my birdie another way.”
Mularski, who weighs all of 115 pounds, has never been one of high school golf’s big hitters.
And perhaps because of that, he’s avoided a common pitfall of young male golfers.
There was never a love affair between Mularski and his driver – never a temptation to take the Big Dog out of his bag, grip it and rip it as hard as he can. His ego has never been tied to his distance off the tee.
Instead, he doesn’t so much attack a course as manage it.
“I’ve never been a super-long hitter,” he said “Instead, I have had to work on shot management. My focus is just on not making any silly mistakes. I try to stay away from penalty strokes, stay on the fairway. I know I have a better short game than a long game, so I play to my strength.”
It’s a level of golf maturity and self-awareness not often seen in a high school golfer.
“I’ve been around a long time and seen a lot of really good players come through,” Peters said. “There is truly a passion from him in a very healthy way.”
The Mead coach of 30 years puts it succinctly: Mularski works harder at the game than any player he has ever coached.
“I enjoy the game, and I want to see just how good I can be at it,” Mularski said. “I plan on working at my game for the rest of my life.”
In the short term, Mularski will take his game to the Greater Los Angeles area next year after accepting a scholarship to play at the University of La Verne.
“I really wanted to play college golf somewhere warmer,” he explained. “I wanted to go someplace where I can work on my game the year-round and not spend four months trying to work on my game in a simulator all winter.”
The simulator was key to getting ready for this season after the late winter kept area golfers indoors for the first month of the season.
“They get booked up,” he lamented. “But I have a net in my garage, and I have a putting green in my basement. I spent a lot of time working on both.”
Putting in hours working on his swing comes naturally.
“I love to work on my game,” he said. “I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent on the putting green, putting under the lights. Or chipping shots under the lights.
“I’ve never really been the most talented player. But I have worked on my game. I’m not long off the tee, so I’ve worked hard to make my short game better.”
“He’s been somebody I’ve really enjoyed watching,” Peters said. “For me a great honor and privilege.”