GOLF PREVIEW | Wolves’ golf programs enjoy veteran presence

It is an easy task.

When South Kitsap girls golf coach Mandy Wood fills out her lineup card, junior Sarah Kopta is No. 1.

And Kopta, who advanced to the Class 4A state tournament last year, spent the offseason honing her skills.

“She didn’t really have any deficiencies,” Wood said. “She’s just become more consistent.”

Wood said Kopta is the only returning golfer that projects as a state qualifier, but that does not mean there is not talent behind her. Seniors Emily Easterday, the Wolves’ No. 2, and Shaley Hannem, along with junior Karly Easterday, also return.

The larger task for South, which finished with a 6-4 record in 2013, might be filling out the final two varsity positions. There are several newcomers competing for those spots, including Calli Cuccardi, whose father, Sean, is the general manager of McCormick Woods Golf Course.

“I would say Callie has a ton of potential,” Wood said. “As she progresses, she’s going to do some big things.”

Wood said Kopta is helping several newcomers with the transition to playing in high school.

“She works well with some of the younger golfers,” she said. “She really has stepped up this year. I’m proud of her.”

While Kopta is established as the top player on the girls team, the Wolves’ boys program’s No. 1 remains in flux after two matches. Seniors Caulin Bakalarski and Ryley Callaghan, both of whom were standouts on the school’s basketball team, are vying for that role. Callaghan held that spot during South’s 72-27 nonleague win March 20 against Wilson, but Bakalarski assumed that role during the team’s March 27 loss at Shelton.

“It just fluctuates all of the time,” said Dustin Booth, who coaches the team along with Sean Duttry.

Bakalarski took last year off after playing golf as a sophomore for the Wolves. In addition to Bakalarski and Callaghan, Booth said junior Caleb Bray and senior Cody Myhr are “pretty locked in” as the top four varsity players. Booth said he and Duttry elected to keep two or three more players than usual because of the squad’s depth. He hopes that means South, which finished with a 6-5 record last year, will have plenty of competition for those varsity roles.

“It’s pretty locked in during the practice rounds,” Booth said. “We have challenges and those guys [with the lowest average] play in the match.”

Because Bakalarski, who said he intends to play basketball next season at Eastern Oregon University, and Callaghan do not have to focus on spring and summer hoops leagues, Booth believes their golf games will benefit.

“They’ve come in, worked hard and have kind of risen above some of the other guys,” he said. “They’re athletes and they have figured it out.”

Booth views Bellarmine Prep as the league favorite, but believes the Wolves can emerge in the 4A Narrows League.

“I think we’re going to be a team to look out for,” he said. “I could see us getting three to four guys to the second day of the league tournament.”

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