By JOSH MCDONALD
KELLOGG — Death, taxes and Kellogg High School golf — those are three guarantees in life right now.
It’s the stuff legends are made of and while many teams get pegged as dynasties, there has not been a more dominant local program than the Wildcat golf teams.
Since 2005, Kellogg has accounted for 29 of a possible 30 Intermountain League District Championships, multiple state titles (including 2017 and ’18 for the boys) and are currently looking down the barrel of once again being in the mix for the Big White Banners for both boys and girls.
Earlier this week, both the boys and girls teams brought home more IML gold as they punched their tickets to the State Golf Match.
This season was anything but the cakewalk it appeared to be from an IML standpoint though.
Spring sports in North Idaho are inconsistent as winter gives way to more winter, rain, wind and random moments of sunshine, but the Wildcats were not to be deterred — especially with championships to be defended.
Kellogg High School golf coach Simon Miller, who is now getting to the vaunted grizzled veteran status when it comes to coaching and navigating the spring landscape, was thrilled with multiple aspects of his program, beginning with the players, his coaching staff and his community.
“The weather and late arriving winter were a real kick to the stomach to start the season,” Miller said. “We knew we had some serious golf 101 work to do to get our young golfers ready for competition, particularly the girls. I don’t want to dwell on it, but we had some unexpected holes to fill on the girls’ side. But we really are happy with how we turned the downs and challenges into opportunity. First, we had some state of the art simulators to allow us to do extensive swing work with our players while the snow was piling up. Secondly, our coaching staff is just exceptional. Having Danny ‘The Bulldog’ Kenyon is amazing. He was a student of mine and on my golf team. He’s now a great friend. We were also able to add new KHS Math Teacher Kayla Monroe to our staff. Both were invaluable.”
Those simulators Miller mentioned came courtesy of the Rauenhorst and Bristow families, who allowed the golfers to get their swings in as the late winter slowly melted off.
During this week’s IML championships, the Wildcats found themselves in an exciting situation that resulted in another first for the program.
Senior Kat Rauenhorst, the IML gold standard from the previous three seasons, found herself in a sudden death playoff for the top spot.
After dispatching her opponent, she became a 4-time IML Individual District Champion, but the bigger story was how she shared the award with her freshman brother Archie Rauenhorst, who had just become the boys IML Champion.
Even as a freshman, Archie’s rise to medalist level isn’t surprising, considering that his sister began her run as freshman as well, but he remained humble and almost honored when discussing his big win.
“It was very cool for me to be district champ. I had amazing competition from my team all year and they pushed me to that moment,” Archie said. “It was even cooler to do it along with Kat in her last year and my first year. I don’t think too many people can say they’ve done that. I knew it was important to her. And for me to win my first district title when she won her fourth district title was awesome.”
"Normally people dread having to play on a team with their younger sibling, but Arch and I get along so well that it’s been fun," Kat said. "Winning together was really cool for me, especially since it was my fourth time. When we won Brawl for the Ball in January, I thought nothing would be cooler than winning that when I was a senior and Archie was a freshman, but this topped it."
The sibling dynamic is not unusual for Kellogg golf, but the sibling championships were a first in Miller’s recollection.
“I have had some amazing sibling combinations in my years of coaching KHS golf,” Miller said. “From John and Sue James, to Derek and Alyssa Jarvey, to Jessie and Taryn Cochrane — but I don’t recall a sister-brother combo individual medalist at districts. That was pretty dang awesome. The fact that they are the kids of my childhood friend and his wife makes it even more special. Hank and Michele (Rauenhorst) are great friends and supporters of KHS golf.”
Junior Taylor Bush had been the boys team leader throughout the season and he’ll be the odds-on favorite to lead them at state, and his steady play has allowed his teammates to seemingly find themselves while he kept the ship right.
Veteran-laden teams have really been the bread and butter of Kellogg’s golf teams, but this year the Wildcats operated as a veteran-led team in the midst of a youth movement.
Miller hopes that balance can be parlayed into success at the state-level.
“We are really young, but man I like our mind-set and confidence,” Miller said. “Our boys picked up right where last year’s back-to-back state champion team left off. I told Archie last year at state ‘The IML ain't gonna know what hit ‘em Arch,’ and they came through. I know of a team from the Snake River Valley Conference, however that is primed for a state title. The Fruitland boys are all back and have a couple new golfers that are studs. They are definitely the favorites in my opinion. I know my boys respect them, but I also know they don’t fear them. It will be fun to compete! Anything can happen on any day. I love our chances because our boys love to compete.”
For Kellogg’s girls, their championship aspirations are high and right now they have two of the best leading them, as well as some fresh faces, stepping into the spotlight.
“I love our girls. Kat and Emma (Bristow) are two of the best 3A girl golfers in the state,” Miller said. “Seeing them lead our three freshman girls this season has been awesome. I also know that perennial golf powers Weiser and Buhl have some great golfers. Buhl returns most of their team from last year. We will need a little help to jump in the title mix, but if Kat and Emma stay hot, anything is possible. Alyssa Milliron has proven she can break 100, and Gracie Miller has improved 20-plus strokes over the course of the shortened season. Jezzy Hall is starting to click too.”
The Wildcats will be heading to Twin Falls next week where Canyon Springs Golf Course will play host to the 3A State Tournament.
Miller is positive that his young crew will be ready.
“We are young, but at the state tournament anything can happen. We don’t have the depth of some teams like Fruitland boys or Buhl and Weiser girls, but we are gonna give it all we got,” Miller said. “I'm really proud of what our staff and kids did this season. I’m grateful to get to work with such amazing coaches and friends.”