PASCO — Between the trains, planes and automobiles at Pasco’s Sun Willows Golf Course, Dean Atkinson quietly had the best golf round of his life.
Until it wasn’t so quiet.
Cheers broke out on 15 when he chipped in for an eagle and Atkinson, a Walla Walla High School senior, carded a 1-under 71 to lead the Blue Devils to a second-place finish at the District 5 golf tournament Tuesday.
He finished the tournament tied for second place individually after carding a 78 in driving winds at Horn Rapids in the first round of the tournament Monday, and was awarded third place for a combined score of 149 on a scorecard playoff.
“I was coming in today second place, so I knew I didn’t have to play the best,” Atkinson said, “but I knew mid- to low-70s could easily get me into state, so that was my goal today.”
Instead, however, he played his best round of golf ever, beating a personal record he had set on the same course of 73 strokes earlier this season.
“I just careered today, so that feels wonderful,” Atkinson said.
Atkinson wasn’t the only Wa-Hi golfer to finish at or near a personal best; Nate Towner carded a 77 for a personal best this season en route to an eighth-place finish, Troy Aguilar’s 87 was his best of the season, and Konor Clark’s 84 was within two strokes of a personal record.
“So the kids ended the season and they played their best golf, and that’s what you like to see,” Wa-Hi coach Jim Smith said after the round. “These guys have some incentive now. They see those scores and they watch those scores come in and then they know, ‘I’ve got to play better.’
“That’s a great motivator knowing that you’ve got to play better,” Smith said.
Richland won the team title, and it wasn’t close.
The Bombers took seven of the top 10 spots and scored 265 team points — more than 100 points better than runner-up Wa-Hi at 157.
Richland’s Jeffrey Marcum had the low score of the day, carding a 4-under 68 on the power of an eagle, three birdies and one bogey to earn a slice of second place, but Richland’s Hunter Thompson came away with the district championship.
Thompson finished day one at Horn Rapids with a six-stroke cushion after playing an even-par round and followed that up with a 2-under 70 at Sun Willows for a combined score of 142 and the win.
Drew McCullough, also from Richland, played with Thompson, Atkinson and Marcum and rebounded from two bogeys and a double bogey to card a 70 and finish in the cluster of players at 149.
Atkinson finished the front nine at 1-over after scoring two birdies and three bogeys. He hit another bogey on 11 but followed that up with a birdie on 12.
After laying up in the rough about 30 yards short of the pin on 12, Atkinson chipped to within a few feet of the hole and tapped it in to get to get back to one-over.
Hole No. 15 was friendly to the top group, as both Marcum and Atkinson eagled and McCullough birdied.
Atkinson hit both his first and second shots to the right of the fairway, with his second shot falling 35 yards short of the green. He chipped in from there, as he hit a strong shot that ran straight into the pin and fell into the cup.
“My only goal was to get in with a tap in, maybe a five footer,” Atkinson said. “So I just thought a flop shot, maybe get it over the bunker and make a play. So I hear eveyone cheer and I was like, ‘Oh well, maybe it was a couple inches (away),’ and my dad said it went in.
“It felt good, and it pretty much saved my round to help me get to 1-under today.”
The top five golfers Tuesday qualified for state. For Atkinson, this will be his third consecutive trip, although he missed the cut in both of his previous trips.
“I’ve yet to make the cut, so hopefully this year will be the lucky year I make the second day,” Atkinson said.
Wa-Hi was without senior golfer Nick Atwood, who hurt his wrist during the first round and was forced to withdraw.
“It’s hard when you’ve played all year, you’ve played all your career,” Smith said, “and now it comes down to your senior year and you’re in a position that, if you play well, you can qualify for state, and then you have an injury like that. Ask any athlete that all of a sudden what they were shooting for is taken away from them — it’s hard.”
The Class 4A state tournament is slated for May 21-22 at Camas Meadows in Camas, Wash.
District 5 Golf Tournament
At Sun Willows Golf Course
Hunter Thompson, Rich 72-70 — 142
Jeffrey Marcum, Rich 81-68 — 149
Dean Atkinson, WW 78-71 — 149
Drew McCullough, Rich 79-70 — 149
Daniel Haug, Pas 82-72 — 154
Andrew Hattori, Rich 74-74 — 158
Nick Yamauchi, Rich 85-73 — 158
Nate Towner, WW 87-77 — 164
Hunter Ashby, Rich 86-80 — 166
Evan Hattori, Rich 88-82 — 170
Levi Dronen, Chia 93-80 — 173
Konor Clark, WW 96-84 — 180
Tyler Morrison, WW 91-92 — 183
Troy Aguilar, WW 98-87 — 185
Tyler Boles, Chia 96-93 — 189
Ryan Rickman, Pas 103-92 — 195
Team Scores — Richland 265, Walla Walla 157, Pasco 61, Chiawana 61.