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...
Dylan Wu was just a few holes away from overcoming a couple of obstacles in the Class 3A/2A/1A boys golf state championships Tuesday.
He had a three-shot lead over Rogue River friend and rival Kevin Murphy, the defending champion, and if Wu held on, he'd record his first victory at Emerald Valley Golf Club in Creswell after a number of runner-up finishes.
Then things got hairy.
Wu double-bogeyed the par-4 16th hole, leaving him with only a one-shot lead. Approaching the 17th, a 160-yard par 3, he tried to put the wipeout out of his mind.
"It was pretty difficult," said Wu, a junior. "I told myself to forget about it and to think positive because you can't change the past. I told myself to be mentally strong."
He heeded his own advice, holing out a 20-yard chip for a 2 as Murphy, faced with a 12-foot birdie putt, three-putted for bogey. The turn of events restored Wu's three-shot lead and made the final hole mostly a formality.
"Seventeen is where the tournament was kind of decided," said St. Mary's coach Ryan Allred.
And what a tournament it was for Wu and St. Mary's, which set an Oregon high school record for margin of victory in capturing its third straight title.
With Wu and senior Will Street shooting 1-over-par 73s, the Crusaders recorded their second straight team score of 299, giving them 598 for the tournament. Murphy's 75 helped the Chieftains to second place, and their score of 675 left them 77 shots behind.
St. Mary's and Rogue River are Southern Cascade Hybrid brethren.
The previous largest gap between the top two teams was in 1944, when there was only one state tourney and Corvallis finished 71 strokes ahead of Eugene.
Before Tuesday, when three Class 6A teams went low at Trysting Tree Golf Club in Corvallis, no team at any level had eclipsed 600 since 6A Jesuit in 2008.
The previous lowest score at Emerald Valley, which entered the rotation of state courses in 2008, was 603 by Lake Oswego in the 6A tourney last year.
St. Mary's, which set 3A/2A/1A scoring records for 18 and 36 holes, accomplished its total score despite taking a 32-stroke advantage into the final round.
"Our team goal was to break 600," said Allred. "That was in the back of their minds. They said let's go out and do it, and they did it. With a big lead it's easy to let up, but the guys pushed ahead and played hard and tried to meet the team goal."
Five players compete and the top four scores are used for team standing. Sophomore Brandon Chun, who sat out the first day in favor of junior Tom Thorndike, was stellar with a 76 on Tuesday, and freshman Jeremy Wu shot 77. The 81 by Jeremy's twin, Josh, didn't factor in.
Cascade Christian's lone representative, Max Davis, shot a second-day 73 and finished in sixth place, the best showing by a freshman.
With nary a dramatic moment in the team proceedings, Dylan Wu and Murphy took center stage as the tournament wound down. They shared the first-round lead at 1 under, four shots clear of the field, but neither was at the top of his game come Tuesday.
That was evident on the first hole, when Murphy, who is headed to Oregon State in the fall, made double bogey, and Wu, a Northwestern recruit, bogeyed.
"That kind of set the wrong kind of pace for me," said Murphy, who had one of his worst putting days in recent memory. "I couldn't really seem to get it turned around."
Even as he began to knock the ball close later in the round, he followed with two or three putts.
"I wish the timing was different," he said of his putting stroke's hiatus.
Wu managed to stay around even par through 15 holes, making two birdies and two bogeys to that point.
"Neither of us played great," said Wu. "We didn't make birdies, just a lot of pars. It wasn't really like the fireworks there usually are between Kevin and I, where we're making birdies on top of each other."
Wu's birdie at No. 13 got him to even on the round and two shots up on Murphy. A bogey by Murphy on the next widened the margin.
Two holes later, on the 16th, both players hit tee shots left into trees. Wu tried to punch out, but the ball was knocked down by a tree. He ended up with a 40-foot par putt but three-putted.
Murphy was far enough left with his drive that he had an open shot to the green and made par.
At the 17th, Murphy, trailing by only one, hit to within 12 feet of the hole. Wu's tee shot caught the false front of the green and rolled back.
It appeared to be every bit Murphy's advantage.
"Sure enough, he makes his (chip) and I three-putt," said Murphy, who admitted he didn't take the care he should have and rushed through the second putt. "That's just the kind of day it was."
Wu's chip was dangerous because it was uphill, then started back downhill toward the cup.
"I just told myself to get it there," he said.
The ball hit the center of the flagstick and dropped.
"Dylan made just an incredibly clutch shot," said Allred.
St. Mary's, meanwhile, moved within one state title of tying the record of four straight set by two schools. Medford did it from 1979-82, and Taft High followed suit from 1984-87.
TEAM SCORES (Top 5) — St. Mary's 299-299—598, Rogue River 337-338—675, Catlin Gabel 338-342—680, Westside Christian 331-352—683, Kennedy 346-348—694.
INDIVIDUAL SCORES (Top 5) — 1, Dylan Wu, St. Mary's, 71-73—144; 2, Kevin Murphy, Rogue River, 71-75—146; 3, Montana Frame, Reedsport, 75-72—147; 4, Will Street, St. Mary's, 75-73—148; 5, Ryan Schmidlin, Valley Catholic, 77-73—150.
ST. MARY'S (1st, 598) — 1, Dylan Wu 71-73—144; 4, Will Street 75-73—148; 8, Jeremy Wu 78-77—155; 9, Josh Wu 75-81—156; Tom Thorndike/Brandon Chun 81-76—157.
ROGUE RIVER (2nd, 675) — 2, Kevin Murphy 71-75—146; T20, Shawn Donahue 88-84—172; 26, David Murphy 90-84—174; T40, Cole McFetridge 96-95—191.
6, Max Davis, Cascade Christian, 78-73—151.
Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email firstname.lastname@example.org