The Crook County Cowboy golf team has been on a roll.
Led by junior Mayson Tibbs, the 2016 Cowboys surprised everyone, taking the school's first boys golf state championship.
With Tibbs returning in 2017 — along with fellow seniors Chad Desjardins and Keanan Espinosa — the expectations were high going into the 2017 season.
However, head coach Zach Lampert was quick to point out that the remainder of the team was inexperienced and there would be some growing pains.
"We started the year shooting pretty high scores," Lampert said. "For a while early in the year, I was kind of wondering if we were even going to make it to the state tournament."
It turns out that Lampert had nothing to worry about as the Cowboys showed steady improvement. By the end of the season, the team was shooting scores as low or lower than the 2016 Cowboys.
Crook County qualified for the state tournament and actually shot a lower score than their championship team of 2016.
However, despite the low score, the Cowboys still finished in the middle of the pack at state.
"I thought we made good progress with our team scores throughout the season," Lampert said. "That's always encouraging when they show good progress, but the competition in the state was definitely tougher this year, so we didn't finish as well as the state tournament. The fact that we did so well at district and were able to be kind of in the middle of the pack at state, I thought was actually a pretty good feat for us."
Although the team finished in the middle of the pack, Tibbs finished third overall for the second consecutive year.
"I was happy for Mayson," Lampert said. "He had a good season and did well at district. I wish he could have putted a little better at state and had a shot to win it, but he still did really well."
Lampert was quick to add that Tibbs was one of the most successful, if not the most successful, golfers in Crook County's history, so he will be difficult to replace.
He was quick to add that Desjardins and Espinosa will also be missed.
The duo didn't play varsity golf until their junior seasons but came on strong late in the year.
"Chad and Keanan both came onto the scene late," Lampert said. "They both got to be on the team that won it last year, and I think that they both got better this year, so I was happy to see what they could do and hope that they keep playing golf as they get older and have something to do forever."
With the team's top three players graduating, the Cowboys have some big holes to fill.
However, Lampert is quick to point out that there is also plenty of young talent in the program.
Freshman Brodie Kuizenga played varsity for virtually the entire season and tied for 46th overall at the state tournament.
Fellow freshmen Trenton Brinkley and Tannon Joyner also have varsity experience, and both played a round at the state tournament.
In addition, Lampert is looking forward to a talented crop of freshmen entering the high school program.
In recent years, there has been a strong youth program in Crook County with several players competing in Oregon Golf Association junior tournaments.
Lampert said that next year's freshman team members will be the first group to enter the high school who have gone through the entire youth program.
"A couple of them have played a lot of golf, so even though it is going to probably be a reset as far as expectations, we've got some players with experience," he said. "I bet that our varsity team is filled with freshmen and sophomores next year, and it will be interesting to see how they can do as far as competing."
He added that regardless of how the team does next season, they should be strong in the future.
"I think next year might be a little bit rougher just because they are young, but I think that all of them have a lot of potential to be pretty darned good in a couple of years," he said. "Hopefully we will have five guys that are all pretty close together in the 80s or better as they start to become sophomores and juniors. That's what we are looking forward to."