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Laker boys get early jump on leagues golfers

We're one week into the season and every golf coach in the Three Rivers League is virtually handing the boys title to Lake Oswego.

Normally, Lake Oswego coach Chris Sheik shies away from such talk because he doesn't want to run the risk of his players becoming over-confident. But this year he's finding it hard to disagree.

In the past, Sheik only wanted to talk about what it would take to get his team to state. Now, a trip to the state tournament (which requires a top-two finish in the league standings) is almost a foregone conclusion.

'Our goal is to be playing our best golf at state,' Sheik said after his team easily won the first league tournament of the season on Monday.

The Lakers won that event at Stone Creek Golf Course with a 308 team score. Cross-town rival Lakeridge took second with a 323 score. Clackamas was third at 333 and West Linn settled for fourth at 339.

Last year, when the Lakers won the league title with ease, it seemed a different player was leading the way each week. That theme continued on Monday when senior Kevin Day moved past some of his teammates to claim medalist honors with a 1-under-par 71.

He beat his next closest competitors - teammate Kevin Gay and Lakeridge's Kevin Craig - by seven shots.

'To beat the field by seven strokes is amazing,' Lakeridge coach Jason Wold said.

Even more amazing was the fact that he did it during a rain and hail storm.

In addition to the 78s shot by Gay and Craig, the only other scores in the 70s belonged to Lakeridge's Ben Saulson and Lake Oswego's Montpas.

With low scores at a premium, it makes Lake Oswego's team effort more impressive. Besides the three scores in the 70s, the Lakers also got an 80 from Chris Metcalf and an 81 from Tye Gabriel.

Those five players plus Tim Lemman, Elliot Marshall and Jake Sullivan will battle for the five varsity spots this season. Gabriel, who is a freshman, is the only one in that group who didn't see action on last year's team, but he's already shown that he belongs.

'Tye came right out of the gate and proved he deserves to be on varsity,' Sheik said.

'He's been kind of a pleasant surprise,' the coach added.

Gabriel earned his spot in the rotation when he shot a 76 in a team qualifier last week. At the same time, Montpas, Metcalf and Sullivan all shot 77s. Unfortunately, that trio was playing for just two available spots in this week's tournament. So, an extra hole was required and Montpas and Metcalf prevailed.

If nothing else, that qualifier showed Sheik that he has a whole team of players who are capable of going low.

'How low we go will depend on how hard they work,' Sheik said of his squad. But 'I think the thing that is going to benefit us is how deep we are.'

It might be hard to say who is the best on the team, but the leading candidate is probably Gay, who had a sensational junior season. In fact, Sheik believes Gay is among the best players in the state.

Conceivably, he could have gone really low at Stone Creek, but he had eight short birdie attempts that day and none of them fell.

The 308 team score was really impressive, considering the weather and the fact that it's so early in the season.

'We've never been this low this early,' Sheik said. '(But) I was hoping we would bust 310.'

To be competitive at state, the team will have to break 300 on back-to-back days.

'I'd be surprised if we aren't in the mid-290s by the end of the year,' the coach said.

Wold is one of those coaches who figures Lake Oswego will be next to impossible to beat in league play. But that's OK with him as long as his Pacer team claims the league's No. 2 postseason berth.

Based on this week's results, the Pacers look like clear-cut favorites to claim that second spot.

'We didn't play our best and we beat (Clackamas) by 10,' Wold noted.

Lakeridge will probably be scoring in the mid-310s, or better, once Troy Douglass, the team's No. 1 player, gets back in the groove. He shot an 83 on Monday but he's capable of being in the low 70s. In fact, he shot a 71 on the last day of the state tournament last year.

And Matt Kitto has already shown he can shoot in the 70s when he fired a 79 two weeks ago at his first-ever varsity tournament.

'You'd expect him to have nerves (that day),' Wold said. 'But he really stepped up … He's pretty much earned his spot.'

Wold also will count on George Lin, a sophmore who shot an 83 on Monday.

'When he's a senior, I think he's going to be a great player,' Wold said of Lin.