Bellarmine adds to 4A state golf crowns

By Candace Buckner, Columbian staff writer

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The machine from Bellarmine Prep churned its way to another landmark win Wednesday at Club Green Meadows.

Bellarmine, from Tacoma, became the first program in Class 4A girls golf to win four straight state team championships. With six scoring golfers, Bellarmine produced a team score of 168.

While the Lions made history, a lone golfer from Lewis and Clark High (Spokane) disrupted Bellarmine's domination.

Lewis and Clark sophomore Sierra Kersten defeated Olivia Benzin of Bellarmine in a one-hole playoff to secure the individual state title with a two-round score of 151 (78-73).

"It was crazy. I had a rough first round," said Kersten, who finished in a tie for fifth place last season. "And then today, I don't know, I was just on."

In dramatic fashion, Kersten tied Benzin on the final hole. Although Kersten sent her drive under a tree on the par-5 hole, she hit a wedge to the green and landed eight feet away from the cup. After dropping the putt for birdie, Kersten walked off No. 18 and thought her tournament had concluded.

"I just (wanted) to birdie the last hole," she said about her mindset at the time. "That would be a great way to end it. I didn't realize that I tied it on the last hole."

During the sudden-death playoff that began on the No. 1 hole, Kersten sank her longest putt of the day from 25 feet to save par. Benzin bogeyed and finished as the runner-up, two strokes ahead of teammate and defending individual champion Alivia Brown (73-80 183), who placed third overall.

"It's kinda crazy," Bellarmine Prep coach Mark Bender said. "Two of my players were nip, tuck the whole year and either one of them could have been in that playoff. So it's funny how it all comes out.

"I think our two are very humbled about what happens and how it happens, they'll take this as a great learning experience, go home again and be back next year."

Among the local contingent, three golfers made the cut from Tuesday but did not place for a state medal. Elise Filuk of Camas finished with a 183, while Skyview's Emma Wriston wrapped up the tournament with a 185. Union freshman Reilly Whitlock walked off the course with a par on No. 18 — a solid recovery from her struggles on the back nine -- and finished with a two-day score of 168.

"My coach and I always have bets. We always bet for 'Whatchamacallits,' " Whitlock said, referencing the candy bar. "So he told me for the last bet of the season, if I could par the last hole then he'll get me a 'Whatchamacallit.'

"I hit my best drive of the day and probably my two best approaches of the day and then almost made my birdie putt. Came up just short."