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Two Viks qualify for state golftourneys

Ben Milligan and Natalie Vlckova get tournament berths

This has been a pretty good season for the Forest Grove golf teams — and it’s not over quite yet.

Both the Viking boys and girls squads will have representation at their respective Class 6A state tournaments next week. A player from each team advanced out of the Special District 3 regional tournaments, which were staged on Monday at Tokatee Golf Club in McKenzie Bridge, about 50 miles east of Eugene.

The top two teams in each regional field qualified for next week’s state tournament, as well as the first five individuals on nonqualifying teams.

Natalie Vlckova, a junior exchange student from the Czech Republic, made sure she was in that group. She paced all Forest Grove golfers by tying for medalist honors in the girls tournament, made up of teams from the Greater Valley and Southwest conferences.

Vlckova’s score of 80 landed her in a first-place tie with Emma Beyer of McMinnville, who also qualified for state. The two girls finished four strokes ahead of Roseburg’s Kat De La Cruz and McNary’s Cammie Decker, who tied for third.

Forest Grove finished fourth of the six teams at the tournament. The top two squads, Roseburg and South Medford, advanced to the state tourney. The Indians breezed to victory with a score of 354, and the Panthers edged Grants Pass, 371-376. Forest Grove (407), West Albany (414) and McNary (430) rounded out the field.

The Vikings’ other participants were Kate Colter, who shot a 98 to tie for 19th; Sydney Sullivan, who was 30th with a 110; and Hailey Peterson and Harley Tummond, who tied for 35th, both firing matching scores of 119.

For all of the Forest Grove golfers except Vlckova, Monday’s tournament capped a great season. The Vikings finished a close fourth in the GVC’s regular season standings and then were a strong third place at the conference tournament, which helped them take third place overall in the league standings and lock up a trip to the regional.

That’s especially impressive given that three of the girls who played on Monday were essentially brand-new to golf at the beginning of the season. Forest Grove girls head coach Daryle Brown credited assistant coach Mike Pirc for putting in a lot of work with the girls.

“It’s really nice. It’s kind of a down year (in) our league as far as talent, but that doesn’t downplay the work that Natalie did and all the girls did,” Brown said. “It was a surprise. I would have never, ever guessed when we first met on the soggy range.

“We had all these beginners. I would have never, ever thought that we would have gone to any postseason type thing. It was a real shocker to me, but they did.”

And they made quite a trip for it. The team departed for Central Oregon on Sunday to get in a practice round before spending the night in some cabins. Monday was another long day of golf and travel, as the Vikings didn’t return to Forest Grove until very late that night after the competition.

As the only Forest Grove boys golfer to qualify for the regional, Ben Milligan accompanied the girls team to Tokatee, and he also made the most of the trip, snagging an individual berth to state. The junior finished in a four-way tie for fifth place at the regional after shooting an 80.

West Salem’s Andrew Eyre won the event with a white-hot 70 to lead the Titans to state and his teammate Will Papendieck was third (79). West Salem collectively shot a score of 315. Roseburg’s Cole Dittemore (second, 76) and Willamette’s Ben Davis (third, 79) advanced as individuals, as did Sheldon’s Cooper Burk and Sprague’s Alex Reyes, who finished tied with Milligan for fifth.

Brady Sparks of McNary also landed in that tie for fifth place, and his Celts picked up the second team berth available, as their 329 score topped Sheldon by a single stroke. Sprague (333), Willamette (334) and South Eugene (340) were not far behind.

The Class 6A and 5A girls state tournaments are scheduled for next Monday and Tuesday at Quail Valley Golf Course in Banks. That’s actually Forest Grove’s home course, but Vlckova and the rest of the Vikings haven’t had all that many opportunities to play on it, given how wet it was early in the season.

“Before our tournament there, which was the second-to-last league event, we hadn’t played nine holes there,” Brown noted. “Most of my girls, at our event was the first time they had played nine holes there, which was bananas.”

The Class 6A and 5A boys tournaments will be held at Trysting Tree Golf Club in Corvallis.

State pairings had not been released at press deadline, so check osaa.org for more information. On the girls’ side, Class 5A will start teeing off at 7:30 a.m. on both days and Class 6A will start at 12:15 p.m. The first tee times for the boys’ fields will be 7:30 a.m. (Class 5A) and 12:33 p.m. (Class 6A).