The first time I met Patrick Azevedo was at the 2A state golf championships last year at the Creek at Qualchan Golf Course.
The then Othello freshman took the first-day lead, and I’m thinking I gotta see this. As the leaders made their way to the ninth green, almost to a man, anyone unfortunate enough to bounce their approach through the green and up the slope behind the surface was doomed to bogey or worse. The comeback shot either hung up in the fringe or rolled out 20-30 feet past the cup. The next putt was nigh impossible.
The last group finally made it way to the turn where the championship would be decided on the back side. I’m trying to pick out our guy as the final three-some made its way.
“Where are all the big kids?” I’m thinking.
Patrick’s already down four or five strokes on the verge of blowing up. Sure enough his approach takes a couple of bounces and up on the hill behind the ninth green. Oh boy, get out the jelly because this guy’s toast.
The 5-foot-6 freshman hits a flop shot Phil Mickelson would be proud of, then drains the 5-footer to save par. That little exchange left a lasting impression on me and drove a stake through the heart of anybody that thought they had a chance to win the 2A medalist that day.
Azevedo came back with another exchange on the 18th hole that was right out of “Tin Cup.” Naw, he didn’t hit five balls in the water, but he did hit a shot for the ages on the par-5 closing hole at the Creek.
Patrick took a two-stroke lead into the final hole and bombed his drive into the right rough some 200-plus yards out. His playing partners took the conservative approach, laying up at the creek waiting for the freshman to implode.
Patrick made the shot of the tournament with a long-iron, cut fade through the trees to the edge of the green where he chipped up and made birdie to close out the round that won him the 2A medalist as a freshman.
They tend to work on their game every waking moment. They really don’t like to get hit, so you really don’t expect to see them playing contact sports. I wouldn’t expect to see Phil playing tight end for the Chargers. I might envision Tiger going up strong with two hands for a dunk back in the day, but never over LeBron. Although, if the Central Washington Athletic Conference came up with “Contact Golf,” I’d pay to see that.
So, if we fast forward a little bit to football two-a-days, I noticed the Huskies place kicker was banging 30-yarders through with a nice little draw, like a tee shot off the No. 1 box at the Links at Moses Pointe.
Makes sense, neither golfers nor place kickers like to get hit. That’s a good spot for the poofy-haired kid.
Then, I made the trip down the Connell for the season opener and everything changed. Azevedo was playing cornerback. Every now and then he’d get creamed chasing a wide receiver across the middle. He didn’t seem to mind sticking his nose it, taking on the lead block when pulling guard led the way on the sweep. He made more tackles in that one game than Deion Sanders did in his NFL career. Deion didn’t like to hit anybody.
But it wasn’t just cornerback. Patrick was out there returning punts and kickoffs. All of a sudden he’s the gunner on the punt team. He even played some wide receiver. He never came out. It’s like, what happened to that little kid with nerves of steel on the golf course? He likes getting hit, and even better, he likes dishing it out.
Then, along comes basketball season. Sure enough, there’s Patrick playing point guard. Kid’s got hops, I’ll say that. He’s got a pretty good shot. As far as the contact, how scary can it be driving the lane against Selah, when you’ve returned punts against Grandview?
As we move a little closer to the high school golf season, I’m looking forward to watching the defending 2A medalist one more time. I’d say golf is his natural environment, but he seemed as natural at making good contact on the side of the receiver’s head as he is with his ball striking.
Golfer’s might golf, but Patrick Azevedo is no ordinary golfer.
And if the CWAC does make Contact Golf a varsity sport, I’m thinking our poofy-haired kid from Othello would lay a mighty nice hit on somebody’s caddie.
Rodney Harwood is a sports writer for the Columbia Basin Herald and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org