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The White Buffalo Invitational held last week marked another step forward for the fledgling golf programs in Madras.

PMG PHOTO: ANDY DIECKHOFF - Madras junior Amare Jones hits a shot at the Crooked River Ranch Golf Course on Thursday, April 21. Jones has been one of the top performers for the White Buffalo boys varsity team this season.The golf teams at Madras High School took another step in their recent renaissance last week.

Madras hosted its White Buffalo Invitational tournament at Crooked River Ranch Golf Course on Thursday, April 21, with district foes Molalla and North Marion also in attendance.

The Madras boys won their portion of the event, while the Madras girls were the only team with enough golfers to earn a team score, but the significance of the day went far beyond stroke counts.

For two teams in the early stages of their rebirths, the event marked the true arrival of Madras back on the main stage of high school golf.

PMG PHOTO: ANDY DIECKHOFF - Madras golfer Logan Lee hits a shot against the backdrop of the canyon in which the Crooked River Ranch Golf Course is located.In any other sport at the school, hosting an event would seem commonplace; however, with the golf teams coming together at the eleventh hour, being able to put together a home tournament with district foes was a big accomplishment for coaches Johnny Wilson and Caleb Gayman.

"We started the day before spring sports started," said Wilson, who coaches the boys varsity and junior varsity squads. "We didn't even have a schedule on Day 1. In fact, we didn't even practice."

"We just met in my classroom," added Gayman, the coach of the girls team. "That something that I think sets us both apart — a lot of other coaches are not teachers. We're worried about our classes first and foremost, and then trying to build the program. Some (other coaches) already work at the golf course."

The Madras golf teams are a more traditional operation, though, with high school teachers coaching high school students.

In addition to providing a good education to their athletes, Wilson and Gayman also want to give them a little variety in the golf schedule.

Wilson, in particular, noted that the team's early-season events in places like Bend, Redmond and The Dalles have been good experience builders. However, he also added that most of the schools around Central Oregon have bigger, more established programs — which may not be the best competition for Madras teams still finding their footing.

"In moderation, it's cool," said Wilson of playing on the road against bigger schools in the area. "Playing that whole Central Oregon circuit with all those teams — after a while, that's going to lose its luster with the teams."

Wilson added that giving the athletes some variety was a big factor in why the coaches wanted to host their own event in the area.

For many of those athletes, the decision to join the golf team simply came from a desire to spend time with friends.

"We're all really good friends," explained sophomore Fallon Gohr, who noted that the entire girls team was playing basketball just a few weeks ago. "We all just said, 'let's do golf, why not?'"

The boys team has a similar origin story, with most of the varsity team being close friends off the course. Damon Garcia, another member of the boys varsity team, started playing over the summer with varsity teammates Hekili Harry, Amare Jones and Rupert Bellanger.

PMG PHOTO: ANDY DIECKHOFF - Madras sophomore Noalani Harry sizes up a putt during the White Buffalo Invitational at Crooked River Ranch Golf Course on Thursday, April 21. Harry led the girls varsity team with a round of 120 on the day.In fact, there is also some crossover between the boys and girls teams, thanks to siblings Hekili and Noalani Harry. Noalani mentioned that she has been playing with her brother and father, as well as another member of the golf team, Amare Jones, for a few years.

"We all practice together every day," explained Gayman of the Madras golf teams. "So, to run an event together is awesome. (Noalani and Hekili) never get to see each other play, because they're off at different tournaments."

So, while these teams may be new to the OSAA leaderboards, these squads know each other well and are leading the program to some early success.

On Thursday, Bellanger was the top golfer for the boys team, placing third overall with a round of 87. In the team's most recent tournament in Seaside on Monday, April 25, it was Jones and Harry who had the best scores. Those three continue to fight for the top spot on the team, with Garcia and Logan Lee not far behind.

Noalani Harry had the best day for the Madras girls on Thursday, shooting a 120 to place fourth overall. Ninette Garcia was right behind her at 121, while Gohr shot a 124 and Maija Poland finished with a round of 135.

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