Improved swing leads Stember to win
Before he capped his spring by finishing atop the Oregon School Activities Association Class 6A boys golf tournament, Nate Stember spent his winter reworking the top of his backswing.
Hours of drills with coach Rick Lamberton at Portland Golf Club — along with practice swings at home in front of a mirror and more drills at the driving range — were rewarded May 15, when the Lincoln High junior won the state championship after 36 holes at Emerald Valley Golf Club in Creswell.
Stember — who ranks this victory with his 2016 Oregon Junior Amateur boys division title and with playing in the U.S. Junior Amateur that summer — shot an even-par 144 over the two-day tournament.
"It's definitely up there. The lore of the state championship is a big part of it," Stember said.
He is shooting for more memorable results this summer.
A busy June will be highlighted by the U.S. Junior Amateur qualifier June 18 at The Reserve and Vineyards in Aloha and the Oregon Junior Amateur, which takes place June 25-29 at Astoria Golf and Country Club.
"My biggest goals are to make it back to the big national tournaments like the Junior Am, the Junior PGA and the Junior Worlds in San Diego," Stember said. "All of those qualifiers are in the first 20 days of June, so that's the period of time when I've got to ramp up my game.
"I think the most important thing is to not put too much pressure on those events and just go out and know that I have the capability. I've just got to go play golf and not worry about all the other stuff."
Stember traces his success at the state tournament to the end of last summer, when his inconsistent swing was producing inconsistent scores.
"I had a lot of penalty strokes toward the end of summer last year. That was derailing my scores, and I wasn't really getting the results I wanted," he said.
Looking long-term, Stember gave up playing basketball for Lincoln (he said he would have competed to be a role player for a Cardinals hoops team that reached the state semifinals) and devoted his winter to improving his swing.
"I was in a bad position at the top of my swing, and Rick (Lamberton) and I had to work pretty hard at fixing that," Stember said.
As a result, Stember was more consistent at hitting fairways off the tee and hitting greens with his irons.
One exception was his first tee shot of the second day of the state tournament, which led to a double bogey. His message to himself was to settle down.
"I know I'm better than a double bogey on the first hole. So just see that as an anomaly and know that I have 17 holes to make up for it. I did that on the next seven or eight holes," Stember said.
He finished that round at 1-over, good enough for a four-stroke victory over two members of Jesuit's state title team, freshman Brody Marconi and sophomore Andrew Reinhardt.
Stember has made a verbal commitment to play college golf at the University of Oregon. He said the opportunity to play for Casey Martin and to have Eugene Country Club for a home course were deciding factors.
"(Martin) just has so much knowledge he can share," Stember said, noting that recent Ducks Aaron Wise and Wyndham Clark have begun promising pro careers. "He knows how to breed good golfers. I think he can help me get to the next level."