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Hammericksen’s time to shine

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Senior Riley Hammericksen leads St. Mary’s into Class 4A/3A/2A/1A girls golf state championships

For St. Mary’s senior Riley Hammericksen, it hasn’t ever really been about being No. 1.

Come Tuesday night, though, that certainly wouldn’t be an unwelcome position for the top high school girls golfer in Medford.

Hammericksen will be the leading local challenger for the Class 4A/3A/2A/1A state championship when play commences Monday and Tuesday at Eagle Crest Ridge Course in Redmond in the first state tournament in three years.

The 18-year-old standout, who is averaging a 75 this season, finished runner-up in this week’s district tournament and placed third at state as a freshman in 2019.

“I think if I go there and I’m confident and I do my best, I have a chance at it,” Hammericksen said Thursday of a potential state title. “The competition is really good this year and the girl who won districts (Sandhya Vaikuntam of Marist) is such an amazing girl. I’m just going to practice hard this week and we’ll just see what happens. If I play well, I have a chance.”

More importantly for Hammericksen, though, is that her fellow Crusaders find themselves atop the leaderboard again after the COVID-19 pandemic put a string of four straight state titles on pause following their win in 2019.

Brigit O’Connell, who was fourth at districts, Chelsea Horn and Lucy Maxwell teamed with Hammericksen to win the District 3 crown.

“We haven’t had a state tournament since COVID and we’ve definitely missed it,” said Hammericksen. “I’m so excited to have that experience back, it’s going to be fun. We want to win as a team. I think that’s the main goal going into the end of the season, so hopefully we can make it happen.”

The St. Mary’s boys golf team, led by Brock Drury, Josh Moran and Tiger Kao, also expects to challenge for individual and team titles in the 3A/2A/1A event at Quail Valley Golf Course in Banks.

The Crater boys golf team carries similar high hopes for the 5A state tournament set Monday-Tuesday at Trysting Tree Golf Club in Corvallis. Ben Idiart claimed the district title, with Marcus Idiart, Tucker Laws and Tate Broesder each capable of low scores to boost the Comets’ hopes.

While her last state tourney took place three years ago, Hammericksen remembers it all so vividly.

That’s partially what makes the early week trip to Redmond so exciting.

Beyond capturing the team title and placing third in her own right — finishing at 7-over 151 — her older sister Baylee secured a second straight individual crown by setting the 4A/3A/2A/1A state record for the lowest two-day event score at 5-under 139.

“It’s special that we’re going back to the same course for state,” said Hammericksen of Eagle Crest Ridge Course. “I think that’s going to be really cool to have a full-circle moment. I came there as a freshman and now I’m coming back there as a senior.”

“It was really special playing a tournament that first year with Baylee and her winning it,” she added. “It was the only state tournament that we got to have, which we didn’t know it at the time. I think going back there is going to be a special experience, especially with the girls we have now. We all love each other so it should be really fun.”

Hammericksen carries a different role into the finals this time around as she seeks to keep up the family tradition. Her sister Baylee, who now plays for the University of Oregon, admirably shouldered the No. 1 role for St. Mary’s during a chaotic time for all high school athletes, and now it’s Riley’s turn.

“It’s definitely been different, kind of trying to fill her shoes, but it’s been super rewarding,” she said. “It just always felt like her spot, like that’s hers and I’m No. 2 and I was perfectly fine with it. This season has kind of just been about me stepping up and filling those shoes, both as a golfer and as a teammate.”

“It’s so funny because I felt like it was going to feel like a lot more pressure but I still talk about Baylee so much, it’s still kind of the same for me,” added Hammericksen. “Sometimes it does feel like an empty void there but I’m super proud of her — Baylee’s doing so well in college and having such a great time getting so much better — but it’s definitely been a little bit of a void in the team.”

In truth, considering herself first is just not part of Riley’s mentality — and has even created a handful of funny moments this spring in the Hammericksen household.

“There was a Mail Tribune article that actually came out and the headline was something like, ‘Hammericksen wins the title,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, Baylee must have done something in college,’” she said with a laugh. “And then my mom said, ‘No, it’s about you,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, OK … wow.’ I had a bit of a laugh about that because it took me back and I was like, ‘OK, that’s cool.’”

The opportunity for more of those headlines, however, will be winding down soon as Hammericksen puts her competitive golf career on ice after Tuesday to attend Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. Her dream situation is to eventually wind up working for Disney.

“State will be my last tournament,” said Hammericksen, whose last day of high school was Wednesday and finished with a 3.86 GPA. “It’s crazy to say out loud and kind of the end of an era, but I’ve been so happy to be doing it in high school.

“High school golf has been such a positive experience for me, it’s kind of helped me love the sport even more than I already did. So ending it on that note is going to be something really special.”

Have a story idea? Reach sports editor Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@rosebudmedia.com or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneRiley Hammericksen practices Thursday at the Rogue Valley Country Club.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneRiley Hammericksen placed third at the Class 4A/3A/2A/1A girls golf state championships in the last statewide gathering as a freshman in 2019.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneRiley Hammericksen at the Rogue Valley Country Club Thursday.