EAGLE POINT — Beneath the blue skies and gentle breezes that caressed the Eagle Point Golf Club on Tuesday, it appeared someone with the Ashland High golf team was hurting at every turn.
Boys coach Tom McCracken didn't even make it to the first tee, laid low by a case of the flu. Then there was Matt Naylor's knee, Michael Wurzell's arm and Willie Michiels' ankle, all compromised to one degree or another by previous injuries. At times it seemed an appointment with the doctor might have been more in line than a return trip to the state tournament.
But in a performance that was every bit as much a testament to will as to skill, when the sun set over Eagle Point, the Grizzlies had somehow qualified more golfers for the Class 5A state tournament — seven — than any other Southern Sky Conference school.
"It wasn't as good as I hoped, but it's exciting to go to state," said Ashland junior Drew Van Vleck, summing up the mood of most.
With Naylor and Clint Murphy leading the way, Ashland took home the SSC Boys District Championship, beating Eagle Point by a comfortable 23 shots as Klamath Union fell to third. Murphy (172), Naylor (173) and Wurzell (177) finished 3-5 in the individual standings. Ashland's girls again finished second to Crater but qualified a pair of individuals — Van Vleck and sophomore Willie Michiels.
A pair of Klamath Union freshmen — Jackson Kintzinger and Taylor Glassow — continued their dominance by again earning individual medalist honors. It was the fifth straight time in SSC play that Kintzinger has done so, and the sixth straight for Glassow.
"The best thing about state is that you get to play a nice course for free — and miss two days of school," Naylor said jokingly.
When they tee it up in Creswell next Monday, Ashland's boys will need a season-best performance if they hope to improve upon last spring's 10th place finish. The girls will play their state tourney in Corvallis, also next Monday and Tuesday.
"I think it will be a fun experience," Van Vleck said.
Fun wasn't the first word that came to mind for most on Tuesday, when only four of 36 golfers broke 90 on a day that offered reasonable scoring conditions. Of the seven players who posted better rounds on Tuesday than they had on Monday at Running Y, four were Grizzlies.
"Off the fairway, it was really thick and rough, so you had to hit it straight or you were in trouble," Van Vleck said.
"The course is in great shape," Naylor added. "The greens are rolling really nice. But they had the tees pretty far back on a couple of holes. Tough for scoring."
Naylor's 84 was the third-lowest round of the day and lifted him to a fourth-place finish at 173, one shot behind Murphy (172). Playing without the knee brace he had worn on Monday when he finished his round with back-to-back triple-bogeys, he had one birdie and 10 pars against two bogeys and five double-bogeys.
"I had some missed shots, but I made some putts, which I haven't done all season," he said. "I always expect more out of myself, coming from a better season last season."
Other Ashland boys scores included Wurzell's 92 for a two-day total of 177 and a tie for fifth, Matt Amrhein (96-186) and Neil Pressici (96-197). It was just Wurzell's second tournament of the season, after breaking his arm in a snowboarding accident last winter.
"I was just struggling," he said. "I haven't been playing enough in the last month-and-a-half. I can play this week and get going again."
The best round of the day belonged to — who else? — Kintzinger, who recovered from three double-bogeys on the front nine to shot 1-under-par on the back nine and finish at 78, earning individual medalist honors for the fifth straight time in SSC play. His teammate and first-round leader Seth Reynolds was disqualified after breaking his putter in a moment of emotion and then attempting to play with the damaged stick.
Reynolds' disqualification meant the Pelicans — who had already assured themselves of a spot in the state tournament by winning the SSC regular-season championship — had to count Derek Hines' 112 among their team scores, leaving them in third place at 745. Ashland's winning score was 708, with Eagle Point second at 731.
Three Eagles qualified for state as individuals, including Travis Hawthorne, the only player besides Kintzinger to break 80 on Tuesday.
On the girls' side, KU freshman Glassow continued to look every bit as dominating as Kintzinger, making it a clean sweep of medalist honors at all six SSC events this spring, by shooting 193 to beat Crater's Kara Vezzani by 16 shots. Crater won the team title by a comfortable 23 shots over Ashland, claiming the league's only team spot at state.
Van Vleck (234) was fourth and Michiels (236) fifth, though neither approached her season's best.
"I actually thought I played really bad," Michiels said after shooting 121 to beat teammate Chrystina Braught for the final individual spot to state. "I was expecting to play better than I had (Monday) and today. So, it's interesting that I'm going."
But Michiels, who rolled her ankle last weekend and was still limping, wasn't about to let that dampen her enthusiasm for a return trip to state and the chance to compete against best friend Maile Guthrie of Crater.
"It was probably one of the funest experiences that I've had," she said of last year's state tournament. "You get to meet so many different people. Everyone's supportive of you when you get to state and everyone wants you to do well."
Her goal is already clearly established.
"Drew's better than me, so the goal will be to beat her at state by at least one."
(Top two teams and next three individuals qualify for state tournament)
ASHLAND 348-360—708: Clint Murphy 84-88—172, Matt Naylor 89-84 — 173, Michael Wurzell 85-92 — 177, Matt Amrhein 90-96 — 186, Neil Presicci 101-96 —- 197.
EAGLE POINT 367-364 — 731: Travis Hawthorne 87-79 — 166, Tanner Scott 85-92 — 177, Hunter DeLange 90-92 — 182, Andrew Blanchard 113-101— 214, Trevor Hanks 105-114 — 229.
KLAMATH UNION 339-406 — 745: Jackson Kintzinger 77-78 — 155, Derek Hines 91-112 — 203, Colten Alaniz 97-110 — 207, Seth Reynolds 74-DSQ, David Wendt 101-WD, Josh Rose 106 (second day only).
CRATER 390-404 — 794: Jordan Roberts 91-92 — 183, Dennis Azevedo 86-100 — 186, Jake Grondin 105-104 — 209, Derrick Taylor 108-108 — 216, Luke Boskovich 108-113 — 211.
MAZAMA 394-459 — 853: Mark H-K 97-104 — 201, Alex Hasko 98-105 — 203, Hayden Leach 99-119 — 218, Gavin Strong 106-131 — 237, Matt Shockley 100-WD, Brandon Dean 133 (second day only).
(Top team and next three individuals qualify for state tournament)
CRATER 444-473 — 917: Kara Vezzani 99-110 — 209, McKenzie Guthrie 115-108 — 223, Maile Guthrie 117-122 — 239, Taylor Norris 119-133 — 252, Lindsey Judd 113-WD, Stephanie Risner 153 (second day only).
ASHLAND 464-476 — 940: Drew Van Vleck 112-122 — 234, Willie Michiels 115-121 — 236, Chrystina Braught 123-120 — 243, Sadie Shelton 128-118 — 246, Jesse Jones 114-144 — 258.
KLAMATH UNION (No team score): Taylor Glassow 91-102 — 193.
EAGLE POINT (No team score): Lisa Drake 99-WD.