This was no breeze

"Normally, one of the things you try to avoid on the golf course is hitting a tree.Thursday at Kitsap Golf and Country Club, the thing for the 48 entrants in the Tim Higgins Memorial Tournament to avoid was being hit by a tree.Swirling winds, horizontal rains and the occasional flying branch made the normal hazards seem less hazardous during the 35th edition of the invitational tournament, which gathers teams from a dozen local high schools.Central Kitsap's quartet had the most success dodging the abundant trouble, totaling 316 strokes to wrest back the team title it lost to South Kitsap last year. The Wolves were three strokes back.Bainbridge junior Joe Lanza, whose low, line-drive style and fine-tuned short game is suited to blustery conditions, won medalist honors with a 3-over-par round of 74, one shot better than South Kitsap sophomore Brady Sharp.Carlee Hanson, another soph, led the Cougar contingent with a 76 that included the low score (36) for the front side and tied her for third individually with Bremerton's Chris Keough and Port Angeles' Dayne Huber.Three of the four Cougs weathered Thursday's tempest with sub-80 rounds, and the fourth - senior Haylee Hanson, Carlee's older sister - was at 82, completing the day's tightest team grouping. Junior Dylan Robbins and soph John Hausdorf both came in at 79, tying with Bremerton's Zack Foreman for seventh place, Robbins matching the best score of the day on the back nine (along with Sharp) with a 36.I'm real pleased with our kids, said CK coach Paul Stensen. It was tough out there. It was all about course management, and keeping your emotions in check. We did a real good job of it.Stensen said it was nice for the Cougs to reclaim the team title, which they last won in 1998, attaching special significance for the Hanson sisters - two of only three girls in the Higgins field this year (the third was Chimacum's Kristin Abang).It's nice for them since their father (Randy, also a member of the Cougars' 1971 and '72 Higgins championship teams) won this tournament in 1973, said Stensen. And Haylee being a senior, this is a nice way for her to go out.The younger Hanson carried the day's best score through much of her round. In fact, she was 1-under through 13 before finishing up with what she called a streak of bogeys as the heaviest rain of the afternoon conspired with the relentless winds.I probably hit 15 or 16 greens, but I struggled with my putting, she said of a round that flew in the face of most of her wind-whipped competitors. I had so many birdie putts. There were a lot of what-ifs out there today.For instance, there was the case of Sharp, playing in his first Higgins and finishing with a 39-36 round of 75 that left him just one stroke away from the medal. It also left him unhappy.I had a triple bogey on No. 4, two three-putts, and I bogeyed the last two holes, he said, shaking his head at a score that would've delighted most of the other entrants.As if tee-to-green wasn't enough of a circus (featuring felled trees on fairways Nos. 5 and 13), the stiff breezes, debris-covered greens and jangled nerves made every putt an adventure, too.I could've played better, and I can say the problem was putting, said Bremerton's Keough, whose 76 helped the Knights tie Klahowya for eighth in the team standings with 353 strokes. I had 37 putts today, he added, ruefully pointing out that putts accounted for nearly half his total.Lanza, who was a steady 37 on both sides playing in the same group with Keough, marveled at the amount of success the Bremerton player managed.Matt hit 13 greens, and I told him I didn't know how he did it in this wind, said Lanza. I didn't strike the ball very well myself, but I scrambled all over the place. I did what I had to do today, which was get around the greens and let my short game and putting take over.Last year's medalist, South Kitsap senior Brian Wilson, was ambushed by a couple bad holes and finished at 78, combining with Sharp to put the Wolves in contention to defend the title they won by 15 shots last year.But South's other two golfers, Ryan Aker and Jason Nolan, carded identical rounds of 83, leaving the door open for the Cougars. When Hausdorf and Robbins both came in at 79 and Haylee Hanson finished at 82 - tying for 14th place - things added up favorably for CK.In conditions like you had today, kids with experience are going to have an edge, and our kids all play a lot, said Stensen, whose charges also were playing on their home course. Robbins and the Hanson siblings, in fact, all live along Kitsap's No. 9 fairway."

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