Maintaining “it takes the first shovel of dirt or the first brick to begin a new structure,” Taft High began building a foundation for the future of its boys golf program Tuesday with a fifth-place finish at the Class 3A Special District 2 Golf Championships in Corvallis.
Senior William Brooks led the way for the Tigers at Trysting Tree Golf Club with a 36-hole total of 95-104–199.
La Pine won the boys team title.
Results from the Taft girls’ participation in the SD2 tournament finals at Santiam Golf Club in Aumsville were not reported.
The following recap was provided by Taft coach Andy Morgan
Day 1 (Monday, May 6)
The first group got off the first tee, slightly behind the scheduled time of 12:16, under sunny skies on the home course of the Oregon State Beavers.
Trysting Tree Golf Club is a frequent host of high school golf tournaments, likely due to the hospitality andconvenient location — often at the center of the many Special Districts in all levels.
Temperatures reached 83, and the Tigers were noticeably gassed by the end of day one. Sunburned and tired, Taft headed home to sleep before a second trip to the Valley at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
Junior Jonathan Freilinger was the highlight of the first day, finishing with a personal-best 126. With a 64 on the front and an improved 62 on the back, Jonathan was playing his best, with room yet to improve.
Playing to his new average, Ethan Unruh, was also improved on the second-nine — finishing 53-48 and a total score of 101. Ethan plays steady and has a very calm demeanor for a freshman in his first year of competitive golf. The coaching staff and fellow Tigers are paying close attention to Unruh’s game, as he is separating himself as one of the better golfers in the future of Special District 2.
Teammate and ninth-grade classmate Zac Will played to his average as well — completing the first day with scores of 50-50, totaling 100. Zac played well, but not to his expectations, as he looks towards low 90s. He will get there this year, but needs some polish — often near the greens. Zac’s work ethic is so strong, Taft golf will benefit from his leadership in the years to come.
The third freshman on the team, Eston Whisler, is proving to have an incredibly high ceiling. Whisler strikes the ball so well, his somewhat disappointing first day score of 56-63-119 showed moments of hope and better consistency. Truly a fan of the game, Whisler will challenge for the top spot on this young Tiger team.
Senior leader William Brooks has been a steady leader on and off the golf course. The younger Tigers have looked to William for support, knowledge and poise. William has been improving his game all year, though has yet to please himself with a final score.
After one day at a District championship, in which Brooks must score well to keep his State championship berth alive, a 47-48-95 was a disappointing score for Brooks. He showed the young Tigers to be gracious and fierce, while heading home to devise a game plan for the next day of competition. His calm focus and positive outlook were just what the team needed to see. A team goal of 20 strokes improvement was decided unanimously by the team before departing for home.
Day 2 (Tuesday, May 7)
Brooks, Will and Unruh, the three leading scorers for Taft, were collectively seven strokes off of the previous day’s pace, and 17 behind the team goal. Luckily, the scores turned in on the front side by Whisler and Freilinger were an improvement of eight, leaving Taft with 19 to make up by the end of the round.
Freilinger was on pace for another personal best after a 61 on the first nine. Brooks had a disappointing 50, to begin what could be his final round of high school golf.
Unruh, Whisler and Will were all clustered around their improved season averages as they made the turn to the back-nine. The sun was out again today, though the brisk wind is keeping temperatures down in the 70s today — likely hustling the tournament players at a quicker pace than yesterday.
As Special District 2 reverses the starting order on the second day of the District championships, Taft’s No. 5 golfer went out first today. Freilinger will be the first one with a complete scorecard today. Following up his front-nine score of 61 with a 78 to card a second day total of 139 and a tournament total of 265.
Next in on Championship Tuesday was freshman Eston Whisler, who carded a 51 out, followed by a back-nine 54, giving him a second-day total of 105, and a tournament total of 224.
The third group in featured freshman Ethan Unruh with day-two scores of 55-59–114, and a tournament total of 215.
After day-one scores of 50-50–100, freshman Zac Will finished his round Tuesday with 52 out, 55 in for a 107 and tournament total of 207.
Finishing the championship tournament in the final group — a position respected by all of the competitors in SD2, senior William Brooks completed the day with 50-54–104, giving him a tournament total of 199.
The Tigers managed to scratch out a fifth-place finish in the first year of their rebuilding effort. It takes the first shovel of dirt or the first brick to begin a new structure. LaPine is in their finishing stages, as they posted a league best 681, in the two-day championship.
The 845 posted by the Taft squad is from a different galaxy all together, but this young team is prepared to put in the work. They know the boys of La Pine will all return next season. The expectation is improvement from both teams. These young Tigers know how much work it will be, and that the expectation is to win for the next three seasons, hopefully, with a win at the state level.
While Taft failed to earn a spot at the State Tournament, and knowing Brooks is finished at Taft, it is important to go back and discuss the valuable roll of leadership displayed by Brooks. With a team consisting of three freshmen, with no real experience with Championship Golf, the value of an experienced leader was paramount for the young Tiger squad.
Brooks was both a leader on the course and a breath of fresh air, in and around the clubhouse. Taft Tigers Championship Golf is alive and well, thanks in large part to the dedication of Brooks.
This is a team that will make a run at a championship — hopefully adding to the tradition of the feared Taft Tiger Golfers of the past. You can begin to hear a quiet hush — as known on or around golf courses — talk of a promising future.
There is no one yet yelling “Tigers” from the tee-box or greens, but it is coming. The future of Taft Tiger Championship Golf was discovered this year, and thanks to William Brooks, the returning four players of the 2019 season will likely be heard around the halls for many years to come.