With the goal of maintaining numbers and re-establishing enthusiasm for the sport at the high school level, the Hood River Valley High School golf team is taking its early season scores in stride, focusing instead on individual growth and the future of the program. The team, led by first year head coach Mark Gradin — also Indian Creek Golf Course’s director of instruction — has just three girls and a handful of boys, several of whom are first-year players.
“We’re focusing on having fun and keeping the kids interested in the sport,” Gradin said this week. The team played its first tournaments of the year last week, the girls Tuesday and the boys Friday, at The Dalles Country Club. “For the first tournament of the year they did okay. The good thing is, it was a chance for them to play at The Dalles, which is where the district tournament is going to be this year.”
The girls team is just three players strong this season, consisting of Alicia Hay, Gabriella Whitehead and Korey Cimock. That will make a district or state run difficult because four players are scored per team. On the bright side, however, the three are all returners from last season’s district champion team — a first in HRVHS history — that went on to place eighth at the state tournament.
In Tuesday’s tournament, Hay shot a 110, Whitehead shot 115 and Cimock did not compete. In Friday’s action, Dan Keuchmann — returning as last year’s top player — led the team with a score of 99, followed by Greg Johnston with 125, Wyatt Vallejo with 135 and Santana Flores with 150.
“To be honest, the scores weren’t that hot,” Gradin said. “But it was the first tournament of the year and for some it was their first time playing in a tournament, so it was a great learning experience.
Gradin said a focus of training, which the team utilizes Indian Creek Golf Course for, will be on the short game and putting. “That’s where we can make up the biggest differences in score,” he said. “If we focus on our short game, distance is going to come.”