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Crook County graduates just one member of varsity team remaining players gained valuable experience during season

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Emma Stefanek follows through after her approach shot at Meadow Lake's fifth hole during the Special District 1 Regional Golf Tournament. Stefanek is one of four returning Crook County High School girls golfers with significant varsity experience. The step up to Class 5A proved difficult for this year's Crook County High School girls golf team.

After years of getting at least one golfer to the state tournament, the Cowgirls dropped to sixth place in this year's regional meet.

Still, the team has reason to be optimistic about the future.

Crook County was short on numbers this season, but the players that they had all gained valuable experience.

Perhaps even more importantly, the team loses just one player to graduation.

That player, Jaylyn Smith, came into the season with high expectations. After all, she was the lone representative for Crook County at the 2018 Class 4A state championships.

However, Smith struggled all season with illness and missed tournaments, never regaining her form from the previous year.

While Smith struggled, the rest of the Cowgirl team steadily improved as the season progressed.

Sami Todd entered the second day of the regional tournament still in the hunt for a state tournament berth.

Todd finished just out of the top 10 in the 10-team tournament with rounds of 100-102 — 202.

Kaiya Eller and Emma Stefanek also showed steady improvement during the season and were playing some of their best golf of the year at regionals.

Those three players should anchor next year's team.

Also gaining plenty of varsity experience was Bethany Kelso, who struggled throughout the season with some big holes, but was playing consistent golf late in the year.

The team still needs to develop a fifth varsity player for next season. However, should the returning varsity players put in enough time in the offseason, they could develop into one of the top teams in Special District 1.

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