Sports

Leete nears end of stellar OHHS career | Girls golf

Joanna Leete will finish her record-breaking Oak Harbor High School career at the 3A state meet next week. - Jim Waller / Whidbey News-Times
Joanna Leete will finish her record-breaking Oak Harbor High School career at the 3A state meet next week.
— image credit: Jim Waller / Whidbey News-Times

In the backyard of Oak Harbor High School’s Joanna Leete’s home sits a trampoline -- and a golf course.

Since the 10th tee at the Whidbey Golf Club is only a long putt from the Leete property, it isn’t surprising the Wildcat senior became a golfer.

She, however, didn’t take to the game right away. With her mother, Juli Leete, a good high school golfer during her prep days, continually prodding her daughter to give it a try, Joanna began playing in the eighth grade.

Now, five years later, Joanna Leete is perhaps the best female golfer in Oak Harbor High School history.

Leete owns a 79-stroke average per 18-hole round this year. Unless disaster strikes at this year’s state meet next week, Leete will break Lisa Wasinger’s 1996 school record of 81 strokes per round.

Wasinger (now Johnson) went on to become an all-conference golfer at Gonzaga University and is now the University of Idaho’s women’s coach.

Leete holds the record for lowest round, shooting a 70 last spring at the district tournament. That wiped away a 39-year-old school record of 74 shot by Eve Patterson in 1974.

Leete won the district individual championship earlier this week, becoming the first Wildcat to win multiple titles.

Leete hopes to add to her legacy with a strong showing at the state tournament Wednesday and Thursday, May 28 and 29, at the Lewis River Golf Course in Woodland.

“My goal this year is to be in the top three,” Leete said. “I hope to shoot in the 70s, maybe in the lower range.”

Leete qualified for state all four years, though she didn’t compete in the meet her freshman year while attending her brother’s graduation from the United States Naval Academy.

As a sophomore she placed 23rd, and last season she finished ninth, second-best for a Wildcat to Wasinger’s eighth in 1996.

When Leete began playing in the eighth grade, she “picked up the game really fast,” she said.

“I started enjoying it more and more as my scores started getting lower,” she added.

Leete’s initial sporting love was basketball, but golf took over because “I like being able to control my own destiny,” she said.

She didn’t abandon basketball, however. She was a four-year letter winner for the Wildcats and led the team in scoring the past two years.

“Being a multiple-sport athlete definitely helps my golf,” she said.

She also bristles at the assumption that one doesn’t have to be athletic to be a good golfer: “People underestimate the amount of athleticism it takes to play.”

Leete also started for the Oak Harbor soccer team for two years but reluctantly gave up the sport to focus on golf.

“I needed to narrow the sports I was going to play. It was hard because I loved all the sports.”

Her love for golf, however, wavered last summer. An injury in off-season basketball forced her off the course and her game suffered as a result. She decided to finish up her high school career and not try to play collegiately.

She was accepted to Eastern Washington University and planned to enjoy the student-only experience.

She picked Eastern because she became familiar with the campus while attending summer basketball camp there, likes the idea of being near Spokane and likes how the school embraces its athletic programs.

“They are into their football team; I want to be enveloped into that atmosphere.”

Once her final high school golf season began, the fire for the sport was rekindled.

Eastern graduate Justin Ronning, physical educational instructor at Crescent Harbor Elementary and an assistant with the OHHS basketball program, heard Leete was attending EWU and contacted his friend, Eagle women’s golf coach Brenda Howe, letting her know one of the state’s top prep golfers was going to be attending her school.

Howe was more than happy to add Leete to her program, but since it was so late in the recruiting process, no scholarship money remained.

Howe encouraged Leete to walk on with a chance to win a scholarship in the future. Leete accepted the invitation and is looking forward to the opportunity.

Oak Harbor High School coach Andy Wesley is proud of his pupil: “It’s been fun watching her improve the past four years.

“She is really driven to do well. She’s dialed in and should have a good state tournament.”

Leete doubts her passion for golf will wane again, but if it does, she can always take up the trampoline.

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