Tuesday, May 31, 2011/lk
The group of bubbly, sunburned golfers, mostly freshmen and sophomores didn't realize what they had done at the time, or that they had made history.
The Hood River Valley girls golf team closed a nine-shot gap in nine holes Tuesday at the Columbia River Conference district tournament in Pendleton to finish second.
In the process they became the first Hood River Valley girls golf team to qualify as a team for the state golf tournament.
"I'm sure if I had told them (they were nine-shots behind) that wouldn't have been the case," Waller said with a laugh.
The battle for the No. 2 team qualifying spot came down to the final group on the final hole, with HRV and TDW tied.
Tori Grace teed up for HRV and according to Waller hit her best tee shot of the day en route to a pair.
Meanwhile, TDW's Carly Lowe double-bogeyed the hole, and the Eagles slid past and into second place.
Alisha Hay was the top individual finisher for the Eagles, taking fourth place with a 216 for the tournament.
As they came down the stretch none of the Eagles had any idea that they were reeling in their rivals.
"I didn't know," Hay said.
"We tried to add it up," added Gabrielle Whitehead. "But we thought we were in third."
The Eagles did not go into the tournament expecting to be making a trip to Eugene Monday morning.
On Friday afternoon only three of the six players making the trip to state were able to get in a full practice - Hay, Whitehead and Korey Cimock. Two of the others were sunburned from two days on the course in Pendleton and not feeling well enough to swing a club, while another had to be at work most of the time.
Before the season Waller was trying to come up with a way to keep his young team interested and focused on playing more golf.
A trip to state may do the trick.
"We are going to go to state all four years," said Cimock, one of the team's numerous freshmen.
They may not have expected it coming into the tournament, but Hay, Whitehead, Cimock, Grace, Amalia Sletmoe and Malika Reynolds will be headed to Crescent Valley Golf Course in Creswell, about 10 miles south of Eugene, Monday morning.
The Eagles will be paired up with teams of similar ability on the first day, such as Sandy and Madison, and Waller hopes that will give his team some confidence and experience for next season and seasons to come after that.
"We went there not expecting to play anymore," Waller said of the district performance. "And now we are heading to Eugene."
The Eagle boys, meanwhile, qualified Hunter Daly as an individual for the state tournament.
Daly shot a 162 to finish fifth and qualify for the boys 5A tournament in Banks.
"I putted really well both days," Daly said of what keyed his success.
The Eagles finished tied for third as a team with The Dalles-Wahtonka in the tournament, and coach Matt Kyriax said he thought his team did fairly well despite having the pressure on with the district meet counting for all the season's scoring.
"They did well," he said. "They had a little bit of jitters."
While he is not likely to win the tournament, Daly is looking forward to a few more days on the links.
"I just want to have some fun and play some golf," he said.
The Horizon golf teams just missed qualifying a few competitors for state, but did make one lasting memory.
Bryce Smith, who finished 10th as an individual, scored a hole-in-one on the Par 3 eighth hole at Whitehorse Golf Course.
The Hawks finished third as a team with Andrew Stenberg (eighth, 187) and Smith (10th, 189) the team's top individual finishers.
"Seeing Bryce get a hole-in-one was a great deal," Horizon coach Oscar Stenberg said. "That was the first in the history of our school."
Horizon girls players Kassia Nielson and Jessica Wagar shot 258 and 304, respectively, at the 4A/3A/2A/1A girls district meet.