Athletic directors at the Class 5A level have proven to be the most invested in controlling their own playoff destiny since a switch to the...
A hole that shouldn't have been menacing to Dylan Wu jumped up and bit him in the first round of the Class 3A/2A/1A District 6 boys golf championships.
On Tuesday, Wu bit back.
The St. Mary's sophomore made an eagle-3 on the par-5 eighth hole at Rogue Valley Country Club in the final round, catapulting to a sizable lead and cruising to the individual title by five strokes over Kevin Murphy of Rogue River.
Wu fired a 6-under-par 66 on Tuesday to Murphy's 69. Wu's two-day score was 139 to the second-place Murphy's 144.
St. Mary's claimed the team title with a 616 total, including 307 in the second round, to advance to the state tournament with runner-up Rogue River, which shot 349 for 689.
State is Monday and Tuesday at Quail Valley Golf Course in Banks.
A day earlier, Wu played the No. 8 hole on the Rogue Course as if the fairway was on fire, avoiding it all the way to the green before, finally, making a double bogey.
"Yesterday, it was just not a pretty hole," said Wu. "I just went from side to side and never found the fairway basically the whole time."
Not so the second time around.
He piped a drive down the middle nearly 270 yards. He hit a "punch" 3-wood the next 235 yards. He was left with a 2-foot, uphill putt, which might have been among the easiest he faced all day.
"I knew the way I was swinging I could easily beat that (Monday) score," said Wu. "I didn't really think about my double yesterday. I just thought about aiming at my target in the fairway and just hitting it there. I knew I could hit the fairway easily and knew I could make birdie. All the par 5s should be birdie holes for me.
"That hole was probably the turning point both days."
Wu continued his stellar spring. Monday's 73 was only the second time he didn't break par, and each time he was only 1 over.
The 66 was his second in two weeks and remains his lowest competitive score.
Last year, Murphy won district, placed higher than Wu at state and went on to have an outstanding summer of junior play, which he capped by becoming, at age 17, the youngest men's regular champion of the Southern Oregon Golf Championships.
He suffered a broken ankle over the winter, losing out on practice time before the season.
Meanwhile, Wu just got better.
"Kevin and me, we're always competitive against each other," he said. "Last year wasn't a good year for me. We both didn't play that well, but he played a lot better at districts and state. So this was good. I sort of redeemed myself here, but I wanted a little lower score because I've been playing really well this high school season."
Murphy trailed by two shots entering the final round, matched Wu's birdie on the first hole, then pulled within one with a birdie at No. 2.
But Wu made a 20-foot birdie putt at No. 6, then the eagle to get to 4 under, and Murphy couldn't catch up.
Wu also birdied Nos. 11 and 16 in a bogey-free round.
"I couldn't really get anything going that well," said Murphy. "I knew it was going to take something pretty crazy to get back in it. But, you know, it's just districts. It's not a big deal. Hopefully, state turns out a little better."
Wu missed a couple of opportunities to go lower.
A 7-foot birdie putt with miniscule movement just grazed the left edge of the cup on No. 14.
On the 349-yard 15th, his drive stopped in the left rough only 30 yards from the green and a front pin, but his flop shot came up short and he wound up with another par.
His birdie at 16 came only after his drive hit a tree on the right and dropped, 200 yards from the short par 5's green. Using a hybrid, he pushed a shot that bounced off a greenside tree and onto the green, setting up a two-putt birdie.
"That was a weird hole," said Wu.
Murphy admitted his game is lagging because of the injury, but the 69 matched his previous low for the spring, which came late last month at Centennial.
"It was four months of no practice," he said. "I do feel a little behind, but I feel like it's gonna come. I just have to be patient. Now I know I can shoot low like I should, but I have to work on some stuff."
St. Mary's entered the district tournament with high hopes. It shot a sizzling 294 in the tournament at Centennial two weeks ago and looked to do similarly on its home course this week.
It wasn't to be. The two best scores after Wu's were 80s by Will Street and Mark Lynn.
"Dylan's really our anchor," said Crusaders coach Ryan Allred. "It takes a team, but Dylan's 66, that makes up for a lot of sins."
The warm weather might have gotten to players, he said, noting that first-nine scores for the Crusaders each day were significantly better than back-nine numbers.
Street was third overall with a 156, teammate Tom Thorndike was fourth at 158 and Murphy's brother, David, was fifth with a 162.
Because the top five players came from the two state qualifying teams, no other individuals advanced.
Day 2 Results
ST. MARY'S (307) — Dylan Wu 32-34—66, Will Street 41-39—80, Mark Lynn 38-42—80, Tom Thorndike 40-41—81, Brandon Chun 38-43—81.
ROGUE RIVER (349) — Kevin Murphy 34-35—69, David Murphy 41-41— 82, Shawn Donahue 48-49—97, Devin Milligan 53-48—101.
CASCADE CHRISTIAN (364) — Jake Quast 38-43—81, Micah Radcliff 45-40—85, Stephan Joffer 52-46—98, Cameron Thom 52-48—100.
GOLD BEACH (422) — Cody Hawkins 48-42—90, Brandon Adams 48-53—101, Brennan Eilek 52-56—108, Jaxsun Gysbers 57-66—123.
ILLINOIS VALLEY (459) — Nathan Munro 55-49—104, Tyler Nolan 55-60—115, Manny Pinmental 65-54—119, Ethan Savadra 59-62—121.
HOSANNA CHRISTIAN (Inc.) — Kyler Kensler 41-47—88, Taylor Cole 56-56—112, Austin Trumbly 63-60—123.
TRIAD (Inc.) — Carson Dentinger 50-59—109, Seth Minix 59-62—121.
Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email firstname.lastname@example.org