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Wildcat girls golf rises above, wins Class 6A state title

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Westview overcomes the rough elements for first state championship in Creswell

TIMES PHOTO: MILES VANCE - Westview freshman Alexa Udom and the Wildcats won the Class 6A state championship tournament on Tuesday.

Play in the moment.

Speak a saying into existence and keep talking about it until it happens.

Through gusts of wind, driving rain, pelting hail and a season that just never cooperated weather-wise, the Westview girls golf team reiterated that mantra repeatedly.

Play in the moment. Be present in each golf shot. Let it go, move on to the next hole. Leave it behind you.

The Wildcats bought into staying centered for the duration of an undefeated Metro League district campaign and a grand first day of the Class 6A state tournament at Emerald Valley Golf Club in Creswell.

And on Tuesday when the greens were submerged with water to the point that the hole cups overflowed with moisture, when lightning could be heard far off in the distance, when not one but two weather delays were administered including an hour stoppage that could've been tournament-altering, the Wildcats weren't rattled.

They played in the moment, seized it, and came away state champs.

Enduring some of the worst weather conditions of the year, Westview persevered and abided by the principles that got them to this point to win its first state title in program history with a two-day tournament low of 647. The Wildcats beat defending state champion West Linn by eight strokes.

Sophomore Jessica Ponce tied for second place overall with a two-day total of 155. Junior May Wang bagged a 159 and tie for eighth. Sophomore Jessica Kang tied for 14th and shot a 166. Freshman Alexa Udom (167) tied for 18th and junior Cassidy Kraus (178) tied for 34th.

"This is extremely satisfying," Westview head coach Patrick Baker said. "We went into this season knowing this was possible and that if we put in the time and the effort that this was a very reachable goal. To have that come to fruition was amazing. They're a tough group. They've worked so hard and deserved what they've earned."

Each individual player's round ranged from eight-and-a-half to nine hours to finish on Tuesday, creating an arduous, physically grueling final day filled with pit stops in the clubhouse and cessations of strung-together play out on the course. Yet the Wildcats stayed loose, singing songs, telling jokes, stretching and staying limber so when play resumed, they were ready to compete. Adversity wasn't anything new to the young Metro champs. Monday was just the second round of golf all year in which it didn't rain. Westview wasn't interested in excuses, but rather that big blue trophy that sat inside the EVGC building.

"Today was about survival for the girls," Baker said. "Anytime you have that many delays and that long of a round, you're not going to see tremendous scores. ... But, the girls stayed mentally tough and focused. They took it in stride. They knew the whole field was dealing with the same conditions. Really, it was important to them. They hung together as a team and made it happen."

TIMES PHOTO: MILES VANCE - Westview junior Jessica Ponce and the Wildcats won the Class 6A state championship tournament on Tuesday.

Years ago Baker and assistant coach Alex Ely set about establishing an inclusive culture that encouraged the program's players to focus on the squad, not just themselves as solo stars. Surely, Westview had its share of established standouts in Ponce and Wang. But their status never separated themselves from the rest of the Wildcat pack.

"We talked all the time about how we're not individuals out there, we're a team," Baker said. "There are a lot of different components to 'team' and a lot of different roles and responsibilities. The girls really latched on and accepted that. They felt like were a unit."

The Wildcats are a close-knit bunch, one that was competitive but inseparable on and off the links.

"They are truly a team in every sense of the word," Baker said. "They enjoy being around each other, they enjoy playing golf together, they enjoy going out to dinner together. They hang out in the hallways at school together. They are extraordinarily close as a group. I think that really helps them in accomplishing these goals. They're there to support each other all of the time whether that's good rounds or bad rounds or other things going on in life."

Baker said Ponce, Wang and the rest of the Wildcats play a lot of tournament golf outside of the high school season on the club scene, so the pressure of protecting an eight-stroke lead from West Linn wasn't overbearing. And with Westview staying in step with playing in the moment and flushing the bad shots away, the Wildcats rose to the magnitude of the moment.

TIMES PHOTO: MILES VANCE - Westview junior May Wang and the Wildcats won the Class 6A state championship tournament on Tuesday.

"They have that 'tournament edge' to them," Baker said. "They can feel pretty confident and they know what they're doing on the golf course. We knew as a team we had the ability to go in and win, it was just a matter of how well we controlled our own games. We really felt if we did what we needed to do, then we were going to be right at the top at the end."

Westview won't lose any of their state players going into next season and will enter 2018 as one of the favorites to repeat as state champions. Jesuit took third overall with a 664. Senior Amy Wagner shot a 159 and placed eighth. Freshman Mary Scott Wolfe (164) took 13th overall. Sophomore Tabatha King tied for 18th (167). Haley Hummelt (174) tied for 25th overall and sophomore Clara Gantz tied for 47th place (189).

Sunset placed seventh overall as a team. Apollo senior Antara Vidyarthi shot a 170 and placed 21st overall. Junior Alisha Kobayashi shot a 177 and tied for 30th overall. Freshman Franca Polla made her state tournament debut and bagged a 179 to take 39th overall. Junior Lauren Preston finished 59th overall with a 199 and junior Megan Pearce followed with a 220 and 76th place.

Vidyarthi and Wagner are the only seniors to graduate on their respective teams.