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Low scores highlight mid-district tourney

It will be interesting to see what happens when we finally get some good weather for a high school golf tournament.

As it is, local golfers are so used to playing in inclement conditions that they hardly seem fazed when the weather turns nasty. But it was so cold at Monday's TRL tournament at Oswego Lake Country Club that West Linn assistant coach Shawn Hoffman carried a portable heater around the course for the entire round.

Despite the bone-chilling temperatures, 10 players still shot rounds in the 70s. Lake Oswego's Kevin Gay and Elliot Marshall led the way by each shooting an even-par round of 71. Couple that with Matt Montpas' 75 and it was easy to see why Lake Oswego shot a season-best team score of 297. In the process, the Lakers claimed their fourth league victory in four tries.

'There were a lot of low scores today,' Lake Oswego coach Chris Sheik noted. 'Every week the league gets better and the kids improve. That's a given.'

But it's been difficult for anybody to keep up with the Lakers who have shown that they're clearly the class of the league.

Individually, Gay maintained his lead in the race for the league's individual scoring title. Maybe it helps that he has teammates can keep pace with him almost stroke for stroke.

With Marshall tying for medalist honors, 'now we've got three guys who have all shot even par or better,' Sheik said.

That group includes Kevin Day, who had the league's best round in the first tournament of the season. 'And Matt (Montpas) is really close,' Sheik said.

On Monday, Day wound up shooting an 80 but it easily could have been three or four strokes better if not for some missed putts.

Cross-town rival Lakeridge had the most players in the 70s - four to be exact. That included a pair of 77s by Troy Douglass and Ben Saulson and a pair of 78s by Kevin Craig and Matt Kitto. That gave Lakeridge its season-best score of 310, which was good enough for a fourth consecutive second-place finish.

'I've been telling them that one of these days we're going to all come together and have a great day,' Lakeridge coach Jason Wold said. 'Unfortunately, it wasn't good enough to win it, as has been the result most of the season.

'(But) I just want to make sure that my team improves and I think we're doing that,' Wold added.

In some of the other leagues around the state, Lakeridge's score on Monday would have been worthy of a first-place finish.

'I've been telling my kids that when you get to state, they don't ask you what place you (finished) in the league. They just let you tie it up with everybody else,' Wold said.

Lakeridge's day represented the first time this season that a TRL team had four relatively low scores bunched so close together. They way they played this week, it's difficult to determine what order they should tie it up next week.

It did take a little bit of scrambling, though, to make it all happen. But nobody scrambled like Douglass did on No. 16, where his tee shot hit a cart path and bounced behind a maintenance shed.

Douglass had to drop behind that building and another one and hit his next shot over both buildings to put the ball back in play. He wound up making bogey on the hole but the damage could have been much worse.

There was also good news in the West Linn camp where the Lions posted one of their best team scores of the season with a 337 mark, which put them in fourth place. West Linn still has a ways to go to be a serious contender for state tournament berth, but Monday's round showed the team was at least headed in the right direction.

'I'm very proud of the way the kids played today, especially because it was cold and windy and the balls were plugging everywhere,' a bundled-up Hoffman said.

The key to the Lions' showing was the play of senior Kevin Hoffman, who shot a career-best 76, which was the fifth-best score of the tournament.

'That was a really good round. He scrambled to get it, though,' coach Hoffman said of her son's effort.

'It feels really nice to shoot low after playing terrible this whole year,' the senior golfer said.

'Today, it was really just putting and the short game,' he said. 'I didn't hit a lot of fairways and greens, but I was hitting the big putts when I needed to.'

Hoffman's round included a shanked tee shot on No. 18 but he still recovered and saved par.

'So that was a pretty nice feeling,' he said.

In addition to Kevin Hoffman's landmark round, West Linn's Matt Percin also turned in an 83. Plus, Jordan Hongo had an 86 and Marcus Mackin carded a 92 in their first-ever varsity matches.

Hongo earned his shot on the varsity after recording a tournament-best 38 in last week's junior varsity match.

'He's been playing pretty consistently, so we decided to give him a try,' Hoffman said of Hongo's recent play.

Overall, it was a pretty good effort for a team that had two newcomers to the varsity level and some other players who had struggled earlier in the year. So, how did they turn it around on a day when the conditions were less than ideal?

'I don't know,' coach Hoffman said. '(But) this is where I thought we should have been starting our season,' she said. 'It has been frustrating, because I think they can compete with (third-place) Clackamas and Lakeridge.'

'I think everybody on our team has a chance to go low on every round,' the younger Hoffman said. 'It's just that no one has done it yet. Hopefully this will be sort like a turnaround and it will start going well from here on out.'

But the whole league is playing so well right now that there could be some really low scores posted by the time the district tournament rolls around.

'Once you take off the rain gear and all the extra layers (of clothing), and free up your swing, you feel like you can go a lot lower,' Wold said. 'And all of the greens we've played so far have been plugged and sanded. So we're waiting to get some nice, smooth greens where we can make a bunch of putts.'

Lake Oswego has already been going low, partly because there's so much competition within the team.

The Lakers have eight players who easily could finish in the top 10 in the league on any given Monday. Unfortunately, only five of them get to play each week.

So, Sheik's weekly qualifying tournaments for the team's No. 4 and No. 5 spots are almost as competitive as the weekly league tournaments. Last week's qualifier had five players vying for those two spots and all five of them shot in the 70s.

To keep the pressure on players like Gay, Marshall and Montpass, the coach makes them shoot 78 or better in each league tournament in order to keep their spot for the following week.

That benchmark used to be 80 but virtually everyone on the team was running laps around that score.