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For second straight year, Bulldog golf program qualifies for state championships

PHIL HAWKINS - The Woodburn girls varsity golf team, from left: Haley Elsasser, Maddie Castro, Efrosenya Toran, Bailey Woolley and April Vasquez. 
Last year's Woodburn girls golf team became the first in program history to qualify for the state championship tournament.

This year's team became the first in program history to qualify in back-to-back years after the Bulldogs placed second at the Regional Championships last week at Trysting Tree Golf Course in Corvallis.

Led by junior Bailey Woolley and senior Efrosenya Toran, the Bulldogs used the very epitome of a team effort in making their way to state this year, as all four members of the varsity team finished within six strokes of each other in the final standings.

Woodburn finished second overall in the final standings, shooting a 402 on the first day, followed by a 401 on the second for a two-day total of 803. The score fell just more than 30 strokes behind the regional champion Crescent Valley Raiders and ahead of third-place La Salle (822).

"I'm just proud, so proud," Woolley said.

Woolley finished the second day of competition with a team-best score of 98 to finish with a two-day score of 198, placing ninth overall as an individual. Toran led the team on the first day with a career-best score of 99 and finished just behind Woolley with a final score of 199 to place 10 overall.

By virtue of both finishing in the top 10, the pair each earned Second Team All-Regional honors.

Woolley gives credit to her father, Casey Woolley for introducing her to the game at an early age and encouraging her to play competitively with the Bulldogs when she entered high school.

"When I was little, I would always go golf with him," Woolley said. "Freshman year he wanted me to play, but I was stubborn. Last year I gave it a shot, and I love it. I'm really glad I did it.

"He was here every day helping me, every day that he could," she continued. "He loves the game, is super passionate about it. He's the reason I'm playing."

But the Bulldogs would not be going back to the state championships if not for the truly heroic performances up and down the roster.

Heading into the final week of the regular season, Woodburn senior Maddie Castro reaggravated an existing knee injury, keeping one of the Bulldogs top athletes from competing at the regional event. That forced junior April Vasquez into the spotlight, moving up from fifth on the team depth chart into a position where her scores would count no matter what.

PHIL HAWKINS - Woodburn junior Bailey Woolley takes aim at practice last week. Woolley finished with a team-best score of 198 over two days at the regional tournament. All four members of the Woodburn girls golf team finished in the top 20, as the Bulldogs finished second at regionals.
"April went from 'If she scores good we'll take it' to 'We're using your scores no matter what,'" head coach Neil Wilhelm said.

Instead of shrinking under the pressure, Vasquez rose to the occasion, posting a career-best score of 100 on the second day to conclude the tournament with a combined score of 202 to place 16th overall.

Vasquez's score is impressive considering how quick an improvement the Woodburn junior made late in the season. Three weeks prior to the regional tournament, Vasquez shot a 131 at Trysting Tree. Two days later she brought her score down to 113. Last week, she knocked 13 more strokes off her score.

Sophomore Haley Elsasser finished just behind in 18th at 204.

"I think the thing that really sets this team apart from any other group I coach is that they really feel a sense of team where they don't want to let each other down," Wilhelm said. "When you play with four girls instead of five, they know that every shot is going to count."

Fortunately for the Bulldogs, the 2018 State Championship will be held on Trysting Tree once again, which is becoming a home away from home for the team.

The Bulldogs played the course last year at the state tournament, but inclement weather forced the team to cut their second day short.

This year, the rain will not play a part in the event, with weather scheduled to be clear and sunny.

The 2018 5A Girls State Golf Championships were scheduled to be held on May 14 and 15. For full results from the event, go to www.woodburnindependent.com.

Phil Hawkins can be reached at 503-765-1194 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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