Metro golfers shake off early season rust

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Southridge junior Marissa King chips onto the green on the 17th hole at Portland Golf Club.

Ticked off with a slew of three putts and her overall play, Jesuit’s Riley Pendergast did what any perturbed golfer would do after four double bogeys on her first five holes.

She punched a tree.

Not hard, of course. A golfer with a broken hand is of little use to the team or herself. Pendergast’s punch was more light jab than all-out haymaker.

But, after slowly starting the Metro’s second district-wide match at Portland Golf Club on Monday, the junior walked over to an oak tree at the urging of her head coach, and smacked it square in the kisser.

“I was just not feeling good,” said Pendergast. “I was frustrated with how it was going, so my coach took me to the side and said ‘Do you want to punch a tree?’ I was like ‘yup’. So, I did.”

Starting over on the 10th hole, a passionate Pendergast finished with a flurry, tallying an 87 overall for second on the Crusaders behind Helen Davis’ tournament-winning 76.

Jesuit won the event with 235 points.

“I felt a lot better after that,” said Pendergast of the deciding thump. “Nothing was going in early in the round. I couldn’t make a putt because I was nervous. I was controlling the putt more than I was letting it happen. After that, it was all good. I finished pretty strong, so I’m pleased.”

Pendergast said her goal is to get better as the weeks progress, and keep shaping shots down the fairway.

“As long as the putts continue to fall, I think I’ll be OK,” said Pendergast.

The putting green was likewise cold and harsh to Westview’s Jennifer Ko. So much so that during the back nine, Ko’s mom ventured into the PGC pro shop, bought her daughter a more pristine, heavier putter and presented it to her daughter on the 18th green.

“It was a shock,” said Ko with a laugh. “She got it for me so I can practice a lot more and so I can do better at the next tournament. I never four-putt, but that was happening today. Hopefully, this will help me out.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Westview senior girls golfer Jennifer Ko shot an 80 for the Wildcats at Portland Golf Club on Monday.

Putting aside, Ko hit her irons accurately distance-wise, and she was able to roll the ball down the fairways with solid spins. Ko completed PGC’s course with an 81, good enough for top honors amongst Westview’s foursome of entrants, although she’d like to reach the 70s in the next month or so. Westview took second as a team with 232 points.

“I can’t three-putt,” said Ko. “That’s my main goal for the whole round. Putting, chipping and all of the short game are where I need to improve most.”

During spring break, Southridge’s Marissa King injured her back in a car accident that hobbled the Skyhawks’ No. 1 player on Monday. Sore and swollen, the junior said she didn’t hit the ball as hard or far as she wanted, but liked how she handled the putting greens with a new set of golf balls. Every hole, King said, offered a chance to begin fresh. With more practice, King wants to dip into the low 90s this season.

“You just have to think every shot is a new shot,” said King. “You just kind of restart and clear your mind. It doesn’t always work, but sometimes it does. I’m starting to hit the ball a lot further. That’s really helping me with my game.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Beaverton junior Gigi Stoll finished second at the Portland Golf Club on Monday with a 79.

By Gigi Stoll’s super-high standards, Monday was a struggle. Putts didn’t find the cup. A tee shot plopped in the bunker on the 17th hole. There was even a 10-shot hole. Yet, a second place 79 is nothing to patronize.

Stoll was on the basketball court six days a week suiting up for the state tournament-bound Beavers, and understandably didn’t want to spend her off day at the driving range striking a couple buckets of golf balls.

“All around I played OK, but I’m a little rusty and you can tell,” said Stoll. “I couldn’t really score. I couldn’t make a lot of putts. A lot of my short shots weren’t getting as close to the hole. But, it’s early in the season.”

The time away from the links won’t be damaging by any means, especially considering Stoll plays golf long into the summer at various prestigous junior national tournaments. But, the consistent rhythm of a golf swing doesn’t return overnight, Stoll said.

“It takes time to get really grooved,” said Stoll. “My swing is pretty much the same as it was last year. I just have to get back in it. I just need to grind and come out here every day. The only thing I can really do to get it back is practice and play.”

Some of Stoll’s shots off the tee on Monday were the same lighting force, high-pitched ping-sounding monster drives of years’ past, though the junior noted she needs to eliminate the amount of missed shots for the rest of the year. Looking ahead, the University of Arizona commit said she’s excited about playing all the tournaments, particularly Emerald Valley Golf Course, the site of the 6A state championship.

The 2013 state runner-up to Forest Grove’s Hannah Swanson, Stoll’s excited to show last year’s second place was a two-day fluke.

“Hopefully I can go back and redeem myself,” said Stoll. “Nobody likes taking second place. That actually does drive me.”

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