Freshmen lead the way for golf team

Islander Hailey Chinn tees off on the first hole against Lake Washington at Bellevue Municipal Golf Course on April 9. - Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter
Islander Hailey Chinn tees off on the first hole against Lake Washington at Bellevue Municipal Golf Course on April 9.
— image credit: Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter

The Mercer Island girls golf team improved its record to 5-0 in an impressive fashion on Thursday, as it destroyed 4A Lake Washington by 83 strokes and continued to make the case as the best team in the state at the 3A level.

“The freshmen have made a big impact for us this season,” said senior captain Lindsay Chinn. “The girls have come in and have more than replaced the scores from last season.”

The victory also pushed Mercer Island’s win streak to 15 meets in a row, dating back to 2007. The streak continues despite the fact that the team lost three key golfers from last year’s squad and consistently has two freshmen golfers in the team’s top five.

“I haven’t seen a transition,” said Mercer Island girls golf coach Don Papasedero. “It is business as usual. The girls just expect to win, and the leadership we have had here has just passed that down.”

The player who has had the biggest impact this season has undoubtedly been freshman Chelsea Saelee. She tied teammate Chinn for first place against the Kangaroos by shooting a three-over-par 38 at Bellevue Municipal Golf Course. Saelee has consistently placed at the top of the Mercer Island scoreboard.

“I think everyone on the team has done well,” said Saelee. “You don’t always get an opportunity to join such a great team, and they have really pushed me and helped me to improve my game in a short time.”

The Islanders’ other big player is keeping the golf tradition in the family. Freshman Hailey Chinn, Lindsay’s younger sister, has also been one of the Islanders’ most consistent golfers this season.

“There are a whole bunch of freshmen golfers on this team, and we have kind of taken over,” joked Hailey Chinn, who shot a 43 against Lake Washington for third overall.

Mercer Island junior Jackie Pearson, who placed fourth overall with 46 strokes on Thursday, echoed those sentiments: “I love all the freshmen on the team because they have helped us grow. Even though we have two teams [varsity and junior varsity], this team is a lot closer this year all the way through.”

Islander Kristen Numata placed fifth against the Kangs with 48 strokes.

During the match against Lake Washington, the team set a new school record by shooting par on 21 individual holes.

Prior to spring break, the Islanders blasted Juanita in a 3A KingCo meet, 212 strokes to 280. Mercer Island had all of the top five golfers. Saelee led the field by shooting a 38, while the Chinn sisters tied for second place with 40 strokes each. Mercer Island senior Casey Smalley completed the course in 46 strokes for fourth and Pearson finished fifth with 48 strokes.

The most impressive meet for the team came against Snohomish on March 18, beating the 4A school, 126-96, in points. Saelee and Lindsay Chinn each scored 31 points, while Hailey Chinn had 27 and Alana Brooks scored 20.

The Islanders have had one of the best starts of any team in the state this season. But the team is still focused on the first step, defending its KingCo title. With the change in the league, there are still more questions than answers for the Islanders.

“The road to the league title still goes through Bellevue [High School],” said Papasedero. “The change in the league is currently to our advantage, but we don’t know what to expect, so we need to bring everything every match.”

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