A record-breaking year for Westside golfers
The Westside Christian boys golf team was so good this year that the team's only serious competition, aside from the state tournament, came against the largest schools in the state.
Even before the season began, coach Roger Allcroft knew he had a very good team. That much was apparent when he returned the core of last year's team that won the class 2A/1A state title.
But if Allcroft needed any further proof of his players' abilities, he got it in early March when the Eagles won the West Linn Invitational. That tournament featured a number of 6A teams, including highly-touted Tualatin, plus Marist, which finished second in this year's 4A tournament.
And things just kept getting better for Westside. One week later, the Eagles set a school record by shooting a 296 team score at the OGA Course in Woodburn. That same day, Trevor Harding set an individual school record by firing a 6-under-par 66. Six weeks later, Eric Grimberg tied Harding's mark when he shot a 66 at Stone Creek Golf Course in Oregon City.
Then, at the district tournament early this month, the Eagles flexed their muscles when they beat second-place Kennedy by more than 100 strokes. Westside probably had tougher inter-team challenge matches during the regular season.
Westside then followed up that easy victory by winning the state title at the 3A/2A/1A level one week later. The Eagles actually had to work for that victory, though, because main rival McKenzie led by four strokes after the first day of competition. But day 2 was all Westside as the Eagles rolled to a 13-stroke victory.
'That was the first time we had to come from behind,' Allcroft said of his team. 'But they were excited about the challenge. They just went out and played their best.'
No one played better that day than Grimberg, who wound up as the individual state champion when he shot a two-day total of 150, which was two strokes better than Dakota Hull of Enterprise and Casey King of McKenzie.
Unfortunately, Grimberg won't be back next year. He was the only senior on Westside's seven-member varsity squad. During his four years at Westside, Grimberg compiled a performance record that will be hard to top. As a freshman, he finished ninth at the state tournament. Then he was fifth as a sophomore, third as a junior and first this year.
So impressive was Grimberg's stay at Westside that the coach of the Oregon State men's golf team invited him to walk at OSU next season. And Grimberg eagerly accepted, Allcroft said.
'It's been his goal to play D-I golf since he started,' the Westside coach said.
Playing from the team's No. 1 position all season, Grimberg posted a 73.38 scoring average this season. But not too far behind was Harding, the No. 2 player, with a 76.07 average. Harding also finished fifth at the state tournament.
The team's five remaining players all registered season averages in the low 80s. That included Nathan Smith at 80.92, Ryan Jesenik at 82.69, Alex Harding at 81.69, Austin Prentice at 83.64 and Beau Brumley at 83.00.
With the Eagles losing only Grimberg to graduation, 'I would expect us to be strong again next year,' Allcroft said.
Amazingly, the program at Westside is only five years old and already Allcroft has assembled a squad that is feared by virtually every team below the 5A level, and even a few above that level.
'Last year, we kind of snuck up on everybody,' Allcroft said, even though the Eagles had finished fifth at state the year before and seventh the year before that.
'But we had everybody back this year,' the coach noted. So, the Eagles played the season with imaginary targets on their backs.
It's not easy delivering when the pressure is so great.
'It was a challenge (staying focused),' Allcroft admitted. 'So they tried to shoot for personal records.'
For Allcroft, it was also important that his players adhered to the sportsmanship aspect of golf.
'That was very important to us,' Allcroft said of the values he tried to instill in his players. 'I loved to see them shake the opponents' hands on the first tee and then again when they got done on the 18th.'
Even though Westside is a small school, Allcroft still got a large turnout for golf. And he had a no-cut policy. So, in addition to the seven varsity players, there were also 10 on the junior varsity I team and another seven on the JV II squad.
The varsity team is so close-knit that the members wanted Allcroft to play all seven players at the district tournament. With only five players allowed to play per round, that meant that two of Westside's top five players missed out on a chance at all-league honors. But they didn't care as long as everyone got to play. And they did same thing at state.
The Westside squad will be deep again next year, but it will be tough replacing Grimberg. Allcroft figures the remaining players will have to improve their average score by two strokes each to make up for Grimberg's absence.
'They can do it,' Allcroft said. 'They did this year.'
Can you say three-peat?