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Kingston golfer Elle Sander is having a great year on the links
KINGSTON — Kingston High School junior Elle Sander is bound for a state tournament in Yakima for the second time this year.
This time around, it’s her golf skills that are taking her there. In March, Sander made the trip as part of the Buccaneer basketball squad.
“Being able to go to State for two separate sports in the same year is really amazing. I’m excited for it,” Sander said.
Last year, playing under the North Kitsap High School banner at the 4A level, Sander missed the cut for the state tournament by just four strokes at districts.
“After that happened, it was kind of motivating,” Sander said. “That was one of the things that pushed me to want to improve and say, ‘I can do this, I want to do this next year.’”
As part of the Kingston team this season, Sander has led the Bucs, winning medalist honors in seven of her nine matches. At the Olympic League playoffs Monday, she took second to Sequim’s Zoei Zbaraschuk, the league leader in points this season. The showing allowed Sander to bypass the district tourney and gave her an automatic bid to state. Still, Sander is only a part-time golfer, spending the majority of her time on schoolwork and basketball.
“Basketball consumes a lot of my time. That’s been one of the hard things — balancing basketball and golf — because they’re both really passions of mine,” Sander said.
Buccaneer hoops coach Kevin Strozier has set up a summer schedule of six tournaments and two camps for his team this year. In addition, Sander has a full load of Advanced Placement classes right now and over the summer will begin her duties as newly elected student body president.
“I really value academics,” Sander said. “I want to go to college. I want to pursue a medical career. So I’m making it kind of hard for myself this year with so many AP classes.”
Sander was introduced to the gentlemen’s game at age 9, when her dad, an avid player himself, bought her first set of Golden Bear clubs. After a short time, though, the young athlete grew weary of the patience and concentration the sport required, and tucked her clubs away behind her basketball sneakers and signature headband. But two years ago, as a freshman at Christ the King Academy, Sander was preparing to transfer to the brand new Kingston High School, and saw an opportunity to get back on the green. Last year, she joined the fledgling Kingston team, at the time managed by North Kitsap High. Playing would not interfere with Sander’s rigorous basketball schedule, and she knew if she stood out on the links she would have a shot at some money for college.
“Of the two sports, I definitely have a better chance at getting a golf scholarship,” Sander said. “I really like both sports, but golf just takes the precedent. Once you get involved with golf, it opens up this whole new world of people.”
Sander plays regularly with a group of friends she has gathered from her time at White Horse Golf Course in Kingston.
“That’s probably where you learn the most, is just on the course, being with people who have played the game longer than you have,” she said. “You’re constantly learning new things about the game: techniques, how to stay focused, mentally prepared.”
Despite all the hard work she puts into the sport, Sander finds solace on the fairways, and doesn’t let the pressure to win get to her.
“When all this stuff is going on, you do homework for hours and hours, and golf is kind of the getaway,” Sander said.
The 2A state golf championships begin May 27 at the Apple Tree Golf Resort in Yakima.