Russell Grove had just finished off a 5-under par front nine and, golf being golf, numbers inevitably started dancing around in the back of his mind.
“I think that might have got to me,” the Coeur d’Alene High senior said, “I was trying to think, ‘This is a new nine, just play it again.’ But it’s hard to do when you’re 5-under. I tried to treat it like another nine holes.”
As pleasurable as that front nine was, with putts dropping and chips nestling close to the hole, the back nine was an exercise in escaping trouble. Grove did so admirably, using two late birdies to shoot a 67 and help the Vikings claim the 5A Region I championship Wednesday at the Coeur d’Alene Golf Club.
Fellow Viking senior Ryan Morton shot 71, a score that could have been a couple shots lower if his putter had cooperated. Junior Mike Dorosh added a 76 and sophomore Taylor Lowe contributed a 78. Coeur d’Alene’s 292 team total was 10 shots better than Lewiston, which easily met the state-qualifying standard of 315.
Lake City, which has an automatic berth as the host school, shot 333. The 5A tournament is Monday and Tuesday at the Coeur d’Alene Golf Club.
“If we could keep it under 300 today, we would be more than happy,” CdA co-coach Darrell Hull said. “Getting (to state) is the hard part.”
Lewiston’s Lisa Cannon took girls’ medalist honors with an 86, two shots in front of teammate Angela Grossklaus and CdA’s Denise Bartkowiak. Grossklaus won a chip-off to take the second-place medal.
“Lisa’s been coming around and she’s been working hard to get her driver down,” Bengals coach Gregg MacMillan said. “Lisa beat Angela last week, too. Angela didn’t play very well (Wednesday) and Lisa did.”
The Bengals captured the team crown with a 372. The Vikings finished at 391, 14 shots better than the state-qualifying standard. Lake City’s girls, like the boys, have an automatic berth to state, also Monday and Tuesday at CdA Golf Club. The Timberwolves shot 462.
“If we put it together, we could shoot in the 350s,” MacMillan said.
Grove put it all together on the front nine. He rolled in a 20-foot birdie putt on No. 1, followed by a 7-footer on No. 2 and a 15-footer on No. 4. He dropped a 15-footer on No. 7 and a two-putt bird on the par-five ninth.
“I made that first putt and it got my confidence going,” said Grove, who shot 69 at a tournament last week at Prairie Falls. “That’s the main thing for me, getting my confidence. I made a lot of putts on the front.”
He saved pars on Nos. 10 and 11 by getting up and down, but couldn’t do the same on No. 12 and suffered his first bogey. Even that was a bit unfortunate since he lasered his approach from 185 yards right over the pin, but it was a touch too long.
“I hit a punch fade (from the right rough),” he said. “I hit the right shot, just the wrong club.”
Grove three-putted No. 14, but rallied with short birdie putts on Nos. 16 and 18.
“That’s a little surprising,” Hull said of Grove’s 67. “Not that he can’t shoot that number. Russell and Ryan are both capable of that, but this is a crucial event and those boys put a lot of pressure on themselves to play well. So 67 is very admirable under these conditions.”
Morton had two chip-ins en route to his 71. He also had lip-outs on short birdie putts at Nos. 15 and 17 and his 6-foot birdie putt on No. 18 slide past the cup on the right side.
“I actually hit the ball better than I have been, but I just didn’t putt very well,” he said. “Hopefully that will come because it seemed to be right there. It just didn’t go in.”
The Vikings, second at state the last two years, are eager to try their luck next week.
“The team comes first; our main focus is on our team,” Morton said. “I like having state here. You can come out and play the course and you know it, so we should have a slight advantage over the rest of the field.”
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