ARLINGTON – Cody Oakes is still savoring his title win at the 17th annual Tom Dolan Memorial Invitational Golf Tournament last month – considered the Masters among local high school tournaments.
The five-man sudden death round at Everett Golf & Country Club ended as the longest playoff in the history of Snohomish County’s biggest annual prep golf tournament, and the highlight of Oakes’ prep golf career to date.
And to think, the Arlington senior almost missed it.
Oakes and his family were visiting his grandmother in Mesa, Arizona over Spring Break, enjoying the sunshine and playing lots of golf.
“I was going to fly back on Monday, but then we saw that was the day of the Dolan,” Oakes said. Telling his mom there was no way he could miss it, he flew back early on Sunday afternoon leaving family behind, then phoned them after he won the tourney the next day.
“Good thing I looked at a calendar,” Oakes said. “Things would have turned out a little different.”
Unlike most young golfers, Oakes is unique in that he was a late starter to the sport. He didn’t begin golfing until the summer entering his freshman year. On rare occasions, he would golf maybe once a year with his grandfather in Arizona who has since passed away, but Oakes was spellbound by another sport.
“I was big into baseball,” Oakes said. “I was thinking baseball in high school and trying to go big in that. I never really expected to be where I am today, golfing.”
Things took a turn when he joined the Eagles golf team, hit the links with his uncles at Skagit Golf & Country Club in Burlington, then drew the eye of head professional Craig Welty, who became his trainer. That’s when golf got a grip on him.
“(Craig) helped me, mentally a lot, and my swing,” Oakes said. Now he practices often, plays every day, and tries to do something related to golf, even if it’s just going to the range to hit a bucket of balls, or trying some crazy shots among the 80 holes he plays a week on average, when it doesn’t conflict with homework. On vacation, his clubs travel with him.
The teachings have taken hold. He has gained confidence and focus when standing over the ball and ready to swing or putt.
“I try to clear my head and stay focused on one shot at a time, not think too far ahead, and not think about ‘par this, bogey that and where I’ll be if I do,’” he said. “I don’t overthink it.”
The Dolan invitational put Oakes’ focus to the ultimate test – even more than solving a Rubik’s cube, which he’s done.
“I was very nervous stepping up to the tee because there was a ton of people watching, players, coaches, walking and following behind you,” he said. “That was a much bigger crowd than I’ve ever played in front of before.”
Eagles Varsity Coach Kevin Coghill, whose son Alex is another standout golfer on the team, said Oakes has worked hard and dedicated himself to becoming a good golfer, and that’s exactly what he has become.
“He’s one of the best golfers in high school right now,” Coghill said. “When he got started as a freshman, he was not very good, but he just kept on playing and became one of the best in the course of three years. He’s been phenomenal compared to kids who’ve been playing since they were six years old.”
Oakes agreed that he had a lot to learn his freshman year.
“As a sophomore, I had a terrible attitude towards golf, and I would get mad,” he said. “It really took me nowhere, and I didn’t get better at the time.”
Oakes said chipping onto the green is probably the strength of his game.
“I would rather chip off the fringe than putt,” he said. “When I’m out here, and I pull out my wedge to chip, people are like ‘why won’t you putt that?’ So I’m pretty confident with my chipping from 20 yards off to right on the fringe.”
He said he needs to work more on his putting, and while his drives aren’t long off the tee, they’re straight and stay on the fairway.
When he isn’t golfing, Oakes loves snowboarding on winter weekends in the terrain park at Stevens Pass or the back country at Mount Baker Ski Area, which he’s done for the past 10 years. Wakeboarding and wakesurfing local lakes also keeps him moving.
Oakes’ goal at the start of his final prep season was to go out Top 10 or 15 at the state tournament set for May 22-23 at the Creek at Qualchan Golf Course in Spokane. To do that, he’ll need to go through the Wesco North Divisional Championship May 9 at Cedarcrest Golf Course in Marysville, followed by the 3A District Championship May 14 and May 16 at Battle Creek Golf Course at Tulalip.
His first goal was to make it to the Bill Egbers Memorial Golf Invitational Tournament May 4 at Skagit G&CC, which he has qualified for as one of the Top 5 league golfers. He’ll be joined by teammate Alex Coghill. The tournament invites the Top 5 in the league, and the top team – Everett – also got invited to play.
Coach Coghill said Arlington has a good team this year, and they’re finishing second in most of their matches, with Everett stacked with lots of good golfers.
After graduation, Oakes wants to play for Skagit Valley College. “Pretty sure that’s where I want to go,” he said.
Oakes said for all the dedication he brings, there’s a fun side to golf too that comes out when he plays recreationally.
“There are games within a game, and you get closer to your family playing with them, so that’s always fun,” he said. “Especially when you’re not worrying about your score. You just go out there and swing away.”