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Bitter pill reveals character of Newport senior | For the Love of the Game

In the world of high school sports, character is a recurring theme.

Prep sporting events themselves are defined by their character — the sound of the marching band at a football game, the handmade signs hanging from the gym walls during basketball season.

In golf, the most unique moment is also the most anticipated.

While live-scoring is second nature to fans of team sports like baseball and soccer, a scoreboard on the golf course is reserved for PGA Tour pros.

At the 4A KingCo and District golf meets, which took place at Willow's Run nearly a month ago, players, coaches and spectators crowd around a whiteboard where scores are displayed before tournament managers certify scorecards and send 13 players to the state golf tournament.

It is a moment Maddie Dietz will not soon forget.

Dietz, a senior headed to William Smith College in New York to continue her golf career and education, shot 45 on the front nine on the second day of the tournament and was right in the mix for spot at state, a feat she had accomplished during her junior season.

But on the back nine, the situation quickly deteriorated.

"I don't know what happened, really," Dietz said. "My swing got off and things started going sideways, literally."

The final three holes, which included a pair of double-par scores of eight, pulled her back to the pack and out of the automatic qualifying spots. As she did her junior year, Dietz was forced into a playoff. When the announcement was made, as teammates Isabel Chien, Jessica Kent and sister Monica reveled in the accomplishment of making the cut, Dietz was left with one final chance to earn an alternate slot, meaning she would act as a fill-in if another qualified player were unable to make the tournament for any reason.

While her game continued to struggle, her character was back in full-force.

When Dietz missed a putt to force a second playoff hole, and as her prep golf career ended short of state in the final try, the reaction was second-nature as she walked over to the player who had just sunk a putt from long range to secure her spot and offered a smile, some encouraging words and a hug.

"I missed my putt, she made hers," Dietz said. "It was a good putt, she deserved it."

The gesture may seem odd to some, even considering the etiquette and courtesy that in many ways define the sport. But for Dietz, it was a fitting culmination after a four-year crash course in competitive golf.

After beginning the game with a grandfather who was a longtime employee of Maplewood Golf Course where she grew up in Renton, Dietz said it was mostly a family past time until she reached high school. Having never played a competitive round and after a last-minute change of heart about trying out for the soccer team, she found herself on the course with one of the state's top girls golf programs at Newport.

"It turned out, I was actually okay at it," she said, a fact evidenced by the state tournament berth as a junior and alternate spot the previous year.

For the first three years, as the team's top players made trips to state and battled with conference rival Redmond, breaking their 93-match KingCo win streak in 2012, Dietz was relegated mostly to the latter groups - a contributor to be certain, but never the star.

This year, after three years of fine-tuning her game, she found herself squarely in the middle of an ultra-talented squad that looked primed to compete for a state title with Dietz alongside fellow past state qualifiers in Chien, budding superstar Marianne Li and the Kent sisters.

That possibility seems a long way off now, though it was only a few months ago the feat seemed plausible, if not likely.

But don't expect Maddie Dietz to look for pity.

Even after an up-and-down career that finished just short of a return pinnacle, she is thankful for everything she gained along the way, not the least of which is that character.

"We were solid, and it was nice to be part of that," she said. "But it happens, and it isn't like it is the end of the world."

For the Love of the Game is a Bellevue Reporter column by reporter Josh Suman. 425-453-5045 or jsuman@bellevuereporter.com.

This story was edited to reflect the postseason history of Maddie Dietz. A previous version incorrectly stated she never played in a state golf tournament.

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