At this time a few years ago, several key members of Crescent Valley High's boys golf team weren’t even playing the sport competitively. Tuesday, after a stellar showing on their home course, that same group of Raiders was crowned state champions.
Led by the senior trio of Michael Gray, Matthew Zaback and Seth King, Crescent Valley scored 609 for the tournament and 302 during Tuesday’s final round of the OSAA 5A state tournament to lock down the third state title in school history.
“It was inspirational,” CV coach Kelly Gallagher said of his team's performance. “Best group of kids I’ve ever had the chance to coach. They work so hard and they just stayed focused. The conditions weren’t easy on this second day, but they got it done.”
Gray placed second as an individual with a score of 72-74—146, while Zaback (74-74—148) and King (78-71—149) finished third and fifth, respectively. Conner Sandberg (83-83—156) and Jake Graff (85-86—171) rounded out the Raiders' strong performance as CV finished comfortably ahead of runner-up Ridgeview (641).
The Raiders practice nearly every day at Trysting Tree Golf Club, where the tournament was held, but weren’t the only team that relied on a home-course advantage; West Albany (651) and Corvallis (654) hung tight for much of the tournament and each boasted a top-10 individual finisher while finishing third and fourth, respectively, in the team standings.
West Albany freshman Brock Nelson (75-75—150) placed sixth, while Corvallis freshman Cole Rueck (78-75—153) took 10th. The duo of ninth-graders found themselves going stroke for stroke in the final group Tuesday alongside Gray and Ridgeview senior Isaac Buerger, who won the tournament with a score of 138.
But CV's seniors leaned on past tournament experience, as well as a sense of familiarity with Trysting Tree’s back nine to stymie any chances of a late-round comeback.
“I had a little bit of added pressure from last year,” Gray said. “Last year, I just didn’t perform as well as I would have liked. So this year — it’s my home course — so I just wanted to play really good and had that pressure.”
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That composure in high-pressure situations is something the Raiders seniors were forced to develop quickly throughout their prep careers. Zaback did not start playing the game competitively until he was in the eighth grade, while King didn’t even go out for the golf team until his sophomore year.
“I was lucky and had a little bit of a god-given gift to play,” King said. “That was nice, but I worked hard for it every day. I got a swing coach and worked really, really hard with him and just decided that this is what I want to do every day. I put my heart and soul into it and it paid off.”
Gray played the first round of his entire life just two weeks before he tried out for CV’s team during his freshman year.
“I feel like I’ve played a lot of the hours that I’ve needed to, I’ve just crammed them into the three years that I’ve played out here,” Gray said.
Now, all three of those players have plans to play in college. Zaback plans to play at Oregon Institute of Technology, King is headed to Northwest Christian University and Zaback will play at Pacific University in Forest Grove.
“We’ve all been golfing together for about three years now and you just want to go out and you want to do it for your team,” King said. “We just wanted to be able to share this together.”
West's Trenton Crow finished 17th with an 81-81—162, Andrew Liles had an 85-80—165 (tied 18th), Grant Moen was tied for 30th with an 85-89—174 and Jonah Willard had a 92-91—183 for a tie for 49th.
Zach Montagne tied for 11th with a 78-79—157 for Corvallis, while Simon Rodriguez tied for 30th with an 86-88—174, Mateo Rodriguez tied for 42nd with an 83-97—180 and Vance John was 56th with a 98-102—200.