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Saturday, May 30, 2020

Late start won’t slow Butler down

By Mia Steben

Michael Butler didn’t start playing golf seriously until his sophomore year of high school. Now he’s a leader on the Western men’s golf team.

Butler grew up in Sammamish, Washington where he played baseball and basketball. Butler said he was not as good as some golfers who had played their whole lives, which fueled his motivation to work harder and become better.

“I made varsity and fell in love with it,” Butler said.

Junior Michael Butler practices his chip shots onto the green. // Photo Courtesy of Michael Butler

His senior year of high school in 2014, Butler went to state for golf, marking not only an athletic achievement but motivating himself to accomplish even more.

He wanted to continue improving his skills, even if that meant foregoing immediately signing with a university.

“I knew I wanted to play in college but I wanted an extra year to get recruited, so I took a year off and pretty much played and focused on golf,” Butler said.

Western men’s golf coach Luke Bennett noticed him after graduation. Bennett said he knew about Butler’s gap year and saw his improvements on paper from his final high school years to the summer after.

“It was a neat thing to see that this young man was willing to put forth the effort and time and was rewarded with some really good playing,” Bennett said.

Butler said that although a lot of athletes were being recruited early, Bennett sent him an email, and they talked several times. Butler decided to visit and later signed a letter of intent to compete in the fall of 2015.

“I can definitely count on him just getting it done and doing his job and giving it 100 percent from beginning to end,” Bennett said.

Transitioning from high school to college golf provided a challenge and opportunity for the already-accomplished Butler, he said.

He said he saw areas of needed improvement and continued refining his skills through mentorship from veteran players, individual practice and the support from his coach.

Butler said he appreciated the friendships made throughout his golf journey. Cody Roth met Butler playing junior tournaments back in high school.

“Michael is a person you can count on. He’s a good guy and always there for you,” Roth said.

Roth said he also appreciated Butler’s competitiveness.

“You know you’re getting the best when you’re playing with him,” Roth said.

Butler, now a junior, competed for the third time at the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Championship April 23-24 in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and finished 16th. The Vikings finished second as a team this year after placing 16th last season.

They need to place in the top five at regionals to make it to nationals for a second time in a row.

“I like to think he’s getting more and more familiar with the golf course,” Bennett said, regarding Butler playing at the GNAC championships in Idaho.

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