It's been eight years since Banks boys head golf coach Geoff Marlatt took over the program. One that he said was working with a "bare bones" budget. Now, nearly a decade later and with the help of the district, school administrators and dedicated community members, the Braves are state champions after erasing a six-stroke first-day deficit and besting the 10-team field at the OSAA 4A Boys State Golf Championships May 16-17 at Quail Valley Golf Course in Banks.
Led by senior Aaron Brown whose rounds of 75-77 were good for fourth place individually, Banks shot rounds of 335-326 to defeat league rival Valley Catholic by three shots and finish what they started three months prior.
"We had a vision from the start of the season to win state, but nothing is given in this sport and playing with expectations adds to the pressure," Marlatt said. "Dave Crowell (team assistant) and myself were super impressed with the trust, confidence, poise and self-control we played with in all the matches. The brotherhood and culture that was created was truly impressive to watch. We could not be more proud."
In addition to Brown, Banks' Ben Cost shot a two-day total of 166, Jake Walters 171, Bo Wormington 172, and Joseph Crowell 211.
Cost opened the tournament with a disappointing 89 but rebounded with a final round 77 that was the product of a commitment he'd made to himself and the team during a team meeting in the wake of Monday's first round.
"We gathered the team together and had dinner and discussed the opportunities," Marlatt said. "We challenged the team and asked each player what they could bring the next day. Each player was engaged and had great things to say. Ben Cost who had a round that didn't meet his expectations said, 'I am going to shoot in the 70's tomorrow.' It was a bold statement, but he backed it up."
In all, Marlatt said there was nothing lucky about what happened with his team. They won all of their league matches, the district championships at Astoria Country Club, and regional which too was held at Quail Valley prior to a week's worth of intense preparation for state.
The coach said the entire team—despite nearly unplayable weather conditions leading up to the event—worked tirelessly on their weaknesses in preparation for the state event, in addition to formulating strategy for attacking the course in the most optimum way.
"There were times during the week where we were the last ones on the course or sometimes the only to brave 'Mother Nature,'" Marlatt said.
In the end, the coach couldn't be more proud of his team and the program he's been instrumental in building, but also was thankful to Doug Hixson and the entire staff at Quail Valley, Banks High School administrators Ben Buchanan and Jacob Pence, his assistant Dave Crowell, and girls coach Don Giannetti who Marlatt said has brought "a passion for the game," for being key pieces to what was ultimately a collectively successful pie.
The program may have started from scratch, but with a little time, a lot of work, and dedication from the players, coaches and community, Marlatt felt success was to some extent inevitable.
"We started this thing with an 'if you build it, they will come mentality,'" Marlatt said. "We have Quail Valley in our backyard, so how can this not be a successful program?"
The Banks girls too shone bright on the state's biggest stage, placing seventh at the OSAA 4A Girls State Golf Championships held May 16-17 at Eagle Crest's Ridge Course in Redmond.
Girls head coach Don Giannetti said he was proud of his team's performance and that they learned a valuable lesson at the two-day event—that they belong.
"We have a young team," he said, "but this has been a great experience for us and it's shown us that we can compete."
The Braves shot team scores of 429-440 and were led by sophomore Jocelyn Janecek who finished 12th individually with scores of 89-97, followed by junior Olivia Wyatt (95-106), junior Madison Walker (118-115), freshman Julia Rizzo (127-122), and junior Ashley Schoegje (129-133).
"Our program started in 2019, then there were two weird years of covid making all school programs difficult to organize, and finally this year," Giannetti said. "We accomplished a lot in these three years and are looking forward to competing at a higher level next year."
In the 6A event held at Trysting Tree Golf Course in Corvallis, Forest Grove junior Ka'ena Kaulia placed 16th individually, shooting scores of 73-73.
First-year head coach Greg Evers said he thought Kaulia played well, but at the same time missed some opportunities that you just can't miss when you're playing against the state's best.
"He had some very good holes during the State Tournament, but also had a few holes where he left some strokes out there," Evers said. "I'm used to seeing him play very well and make very few mistakes, as he really did at State, but the problem at State is that there are many other golfers in the same ballpark, so every single stroke is important."
Evers said Kaulia gained valuable experience at this year's event, and will be ready come next year to show what he can do with another year of practice under his belt.
"He wants to be better, is self-disciplined and puts a ton of time into improving his craft, but the thing is, so do all these other terrific golfers around the State of Oregon," Evers said. "I think the little things are going to really matter next year for him. There's no doubt he can hit the ball as long as any high school kid in Oregon. It's around the green where the scoring will improve and I have no doubt that his off-season work will improve this area of his game. He saw what it looked like at State, now I think he will be hungry to make some noise next season."
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