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Numbers and talent on the rise at Valley Catholic

The golf programs aim for the next level in 2008

BEAVERTON - It's been quite a step forward in 2008 for the Valley Catholic boys and girls golf teams.

The addition of two standout girls players and a large turnout for the boys squad has provided a pleasant transformation for Valiants coach Josh Unruh a season after the girls team had just one member and the boys at times struggled to fill a varsity lineup.

'It's good to have kids out that want to play,' Unruh said. 'We're getting more of a presence of golf as a sport as VC. We're trying to take it to another level.'

Freshman Lindsay Harmon and German exchange student Bitre Klaussman allowed the girls team to do as much.

Harmon, who grew up playing Junior Golf, provides Valley Catholic with an immediate medalist contender. She's already won an 18-hole tournament at Quail Valley with an 86 and shot a 9-hole 46 in difficult conditions to take fourth in the season opener at Bandon Trails.

'Lindsay has a bright, bright future,' Unruh said. 'She can really hit the ball. She's addicted to golf and is very good. It will be exciting to see how she does as the conditions get better.'

Klaussman braved the wind and rain at Bandon Trails to shoot a 44 and take second out of 40 girls, many on Class 6A and 5A teams. Klaussman might have won if not for a chip-in birdie on the final hole by Canby's Arin Ziegler.

'She's a really good golfer as well,' Unruh said. 'She has a beautiful swing and is a delight to be around. Bitre's not real long but is a good iron player.'

VC's roster includes three beginner golfers in Emily Mickel, Jimin Li and Kate Emery, who also competes in track. Likely without a full varsity lineup, the Valiants won't compete for a team state berth, but Unruh expects Harmon and Klaussman to push for two of the three individual qualifications.

On the boys side, Valley Catholic will shoot for a return to the Class 3A/2A/1A state tournament behind a strong cast of returning players and a severe increase in numbers. After having six members last year, the boys team attracted 23 players in 2008.

'We have competition in practice,' Unruh said. 'That will be fun. We haven't had that in the past.'

The Valiants return its top four players from the 2007 state team led by sophomore Spencer Barnard, who shoots in the high 70s, low 80s.

After overcoming a bout with cancer last year, senior Patrick Ihlan, who shoots in the low to mid 80s, returns healthy for his fourth varsity season.

VC also benefits from the transfer of junior Jackson Gambee from Hillsboro.

'He can play,' Unruh said. 'I expect him to be our low guy at times. Jackson, Spencer and Patrick are probably our three top players.'

Seniors Nathan Hiedt, the team's top finisher at the 2007 state meet, and Erik Cook, and sophomore Chris Guiducci look to round out Valley Catholic's varsity team with senior Scott Kelly, who played baseball in 2007, also competing for one of the final two spots.

'Knowing the competition and what we have coming back and what we're adding to it, the boys should have a good year,' Unruh said.

Within the district, the Valiants' main competition comes from defending champion Catlin Gabel.

'I expect for us to vie for the second spot and maybe give Catlin a run if we get hot for a couple days,' Unruh said.