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Youthful VC golfers ready to take their best shots

The Valley Catholic boys step up for a second-place finish in their first league tournament of the year at Stone Creek

By BILL WILSON

Of the Times

With a young, small and inexperienced squad, Valley Catholic golf coach Josh Unruh entered the 2007 season with realistic expectations given he didn't really know what to expect.

So Unruh was more than pleasantly surprised when the Valiant boys opened by finishing as the runner-up in the eight-team tournament at Stone Creek Golf Club in Oregon City April 9. Valley Catholic shot a 376 team total to take second behind Catlin Gabel (343), who was third at the 2006 Class 2A/1A state meet.

'It actually wasn't so bad,' Unruh said. 'The weather was bad but they fought through it. They went out and battled it. It gave us a little more confidence. They left pretty pumped. I was encouraged.'

Especially with the play of freshman Spencer Barnard, who fired an 82 to place second. Barnard was the leader in the clubhouse until Catlin Gabel's No. 4 golfer Blake Morell carded his 80 to take medalist honors.

'Spencer's a really competitive kid,' Unruh said. 'I think that's what makes his short game so good. He drove the ball and putted really well.'

Junior Nathan Heidt also placed in the top-10 with an 88 on the par-72 course. Unruh said Heidt's iron play is the strength of his game, adding that he 'doesn't make a ton of mistakes.'

Junior Eric Cook played as the Valiants' No. 1 golfer Monday and shot a 99, though Unruh expects Cook to be more toward the high 80s the rest of the season.

'He should shoot better than that,' Unruh said. 'The conditions got to him.'

Freshman Chris Garducci shot a 107 in his first competitive round of golf, while junior Danny Keagbine had a 108. Sophomore J.P. Park is also on Valley Catholic's team, while junior Patrick Ihlan may rejoin the team but an illness is currently keeping him from doing so.

'It's a good group of kids,' Unruh said. 'It's fun to see the group come together as a team and root for each other.'

Senior Brittany Balbag didn't enjoy the same in her first tournament, being the Valiants' lone golfer at the girls district preview tournament Monday, April 2, at Arrowhead Golf Club in Molalla. Balbag highlighted her 114 round with a par-3 birdie.

'She was encouraged with that,' Unruh said. 'She probably would've expected a 120 to 130. She's a straight driver of the golf ball and hits her fairway woods and irons pretty good.'

Sophomore Jimin Lee and Emily Michel are also on the team but had not played golf before this season.