PREP GOLF: Hammericksen, Crusaders repeat as champs
With a fourth straight team championship all but secured after Monday’s sensational start to the Class 4A/3A/2A/1A girls golf state tournament, the only mystery left Tuesday was whether St. Mary’s sophomore Baylee Hammericksen could repeat as the individual champion.
And when Riverdale sophomore Yvonne Vinceri fired a 5-under-par on the front nine during Tuesday’s final round of play, that mystery loomed large as the players ventured toward the back nine and more cool, rainy conditions at Eagle Crest Ridge Course in Redmond.
Suddenly holding onto a one-shot lead, Hammericksen had the choice of giving in or stepping up to the challenge.
Anyone who knows the 16-year-old standout likely knows already which path she chose.
Hammericksen buckled down and, after a par-saving putt on the 13th hole held her advantage, she posted birdies on the 14th and 17th holes and pars everywhere else while Vinceri faded into the distance to secure her second straight state championship.
“A lesser player would kind of go in the tank there and Baylee is just so strong mentally, she was not going to let that happen,” said St. Mary’s girls golf coach Kevin Klabunde. “It was pretty impressive to watch.”
Hammericksen finished her round at 2-under 70 for a two-day total of 5-under 139. Vinceri, who bogeyed hole Nos. 14-17 after birdies on six of her first 10 holes, finished runner-up at 2-over 146 after posting a 70 Tuesday.
“It feels amazing,” said Hammericksen of repeating as state champion. “I don’t really have any words, I’m still kind of in the shock part.”
With freshman Riley Hammericksen posting a second-round 77 to finish third overall at 7-over 151, senior Kaylee Wu tying for fourth overall at 12-over 156 after Tuesday’s 79 and Jenny Oh carding a 105 to place 20th at 192, the Crusaders were able to easily nab their fourth team title in a row.
St. Mary’s finished with a 331 on Day 2 for a combined 638 total, which was 67 strokes ahead of runner-up Valley Catholic (705).
“I think it was a pride thing more than anything else,” said Hammericksen of the girls’ mentality leading into the tourney. “We had the ability, we had the means and in the end it was just about having the determination to see it through. It was like, ‘This is our state championship, we’ve worked really hard for this,’ and in the end everyone came together in their own way and we were able to throw up a really good team number.”
Cascade Christian tied for seventh overall with an 837, with senior Kimi Brown tying for 29th at 202, junior Bryton Plankenhorn finishing 33rd (205), junior Shallon Spencer 36th (208) and senior Tess Homeier tying for 42nd (223). Spencer shot a 96 Tuesday to finish 16 strokes better than her first round and was the lone Challenger to break 100 on Day 2.
Hammericksen held a five-shot edge over younger sister Riley Hammericksen and a seven-shot lead on Vinceri after Day 1, but Tuesday was all about maintaining her composure while being chased down by Vinceri’s hot start.
“She made me sweat for at least the first 12 holes,” said Hammericksen. “She is a really good player and we’ve played together a lot since we were pretty young in summer golf so seeing her again was great. She really challenged me to play my absolute best and I didn’t necessarily have everything out today, which was great.”
Typically pinpoint with her driving accuracy, Hammericksen wasn’t as dialed in with the big club Tuesday and had a pair of bogeys to go with her lone birdie on the front nine. She spoke with Klabunde about staying patient and waiting for the good shots to come — an admitted struggle for Hammericksen — and gained a lot of confidence with her par-saving putt on the 13th.
The 14th hole proved to be the turning point in the match, with Hammericksen rolling in a 4-footer for birdie while Vinceri, who got stung by hitting it into a fairway bunker, had to settle for a bogey when she missed a similar par-saving putt.
“That was a big hole,” said Hammericksen. “I think that was the starting point of the whole momentum shift. The ball was in her court for a long time, she was hitting pure shots and in the zone and I was kind of hanging on for dear life.”
Hammericksen followed with two straight pars, a birdie and then a finishing par to gradually put Vinceri in her rearview mirror after a round that saw her thankful, kind of, for having to alter her approach with the early challenge.
“It was a great thing, I loved it,” said Hammericksen. “At the time I did not love it but looking back now I think it was great that she was able to challenge me so much because I hit some shots that under normal circumstances I would’ve never hit if you gave me 100 golf balls. That was kind of a huge step in my game, just knowing that I’m capable of hitting some of those shots, and moving forward I’ve kind of got that in my back pocket.”
Moving forward is all Hammericksen said she can think about now, especially with two more years remaining to play with her sister, who scattered five bogeys with 13 pars in her final round.
“I’m really proud of her for her first state,” said the elder Hammericksen. “She was a little nervous coming up but I’m happy that she was able to pull through and hit some good shots and throw up some good scores.”
And the Crusaders’ bid for a fifth straight title next year? There is no substitute, according to the team leader.
“I’m really excited to see where our program goes next year,” she said. “Obviously there will always be a place in my heart for Kaylee and Jenny and I’ll miss them a lot, but I’m excited to see what new talent we might get and how our team will move forward next season.”
For what it’s worth, sophomore Ainsley Dunn and junior Grace Johnson exchanged roles during the state tournament as the Crusaders’ top alternate scorer. Dunn shot a 121 Monday and Johnson carded a 107 Tuesday, which combined left them to tie for 48th overall.
TEAM SCORES: St. Mary’s 307-331—638, Valley Catholic 342-363—705, Heppner/Ione 367-374—741, Woodburn 398-389—787, La Grande 396-406—802, Astoria 416-412—828, Cascade Christian 426-411—837, Waldport 424-413—837, Seaside 440-414—854, Baker/Powder Valley 442-439—881, Sweet Home 516-485—1001.
INDIVIDUAL RESULTS (Top 5): 1, Baylee Hammericksen, St. Mary’s, 69-70—139; 2, Yvonne Vinceri, Riverdale, 76-70—146; 3, Riley Hammericksen, St. Mary’s, 74-77—151; T4, Kaylee Wu, St. Mary’s, 77-79—156, and Tori Suto, Wallowa/Joseph, 78-78—156.
ST. MARY’S (307-331—638): 1, Baylee Hammericksen, 69-70—139; 3, Riley Hammericksen, 74-77—151; T4, Kaylee Wu, 77-79—156; 20, Jenny Oh, 87-105—192.
CASCADE CHRISTIAN (426-411—837): T29, Kimi Brown, 96-106—202; 33, Bryton Plankenhorn, 103-102—205; 36, Shallon Spencer, 112-96—208; T42, Tess Homeier, 115-108—223.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, email@example.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry