Newberg boys win district golf title, eye state tournament
The rise of the Newberg boys golf program has been as meteoric as it has been unexpected.
In 2019, the Tigers made their debut at the Class 6A state championship tournament, placing 14th as a team. Three years later, the program is celebrating its second consecutive Pacific Conference title and is heading into the two-day event at Trysting Tree Golf Club in Corvallis looking to turn some heads.
"We're not going to win the state tournament, but I think we could surprise some people," coach Ron Quant said.
Led by sophomore Ray Greller, the Tigers have put together the best season in program history, winning five of six conference matches and earning five all-conference nominations across the team's varsity roster.
After winning the individual league title last year, Greller put together a stellar campaign in 2022, culminating in a season-best 3-under par 69 at Quail Valley Golf Course on May 2 to place second in the Pacific Conference and earn first team honors once again.
"We've put a lot of good individual round scores in at tournaments, but I think if all four of us play good for two days then I believe we can place top five (at state)," Greller said.
The sophomore was joined on the first team by senior teammate Garrett Swartout, a transfer from the Aloha School District.
Junior Palmer Thompson earned second team recognition, while freshman Liam Flanigan and junior Drew Harris each were honorable mention picks.
Add in senior Logan Chadwick, who was tied for sixth at Quail Valley with an 81, and the Tigers have a formidable sextet heading into state championship tournament May 16-17.
"I have more depth now than Newberg golf has ever had," Quant said. "We've got six guys who can play varsity. Before we had three and then you'd have to put guys in there to fill out the rest of the team."
Quant joined the team as an assistant in 2016, becoming head coach in 2019 the same year the Tigers moved to the Pacific Conference. Newberg placed third in the regional qualifier that year to make the program's first state tournament in school history.
"The state tournament in '19 was kind of surprising," Quant said. "We were in the Three Rivers League with the real powerhouse schools. We hadn't had any success."
But before Quant could capitalize on the team's momentum, the COVID-19 pandemic erased the 2020 season three days before the first tournament.
"I had a better team that year than I did in '19, but we just never got that season off the ground," Quant said.
Despite the loss of valuable developmental opportunities, the Tigers came out in the shortened 2021 season and put together an unexpectedly strong showing, led by Greller's exceptional freshman season.
Newberg edged Sherwood by six strokes in the final regular season match of the season to win its first league title in school history and followed by placing 14th out of 24 teams at the Culmination Tournament held at Stone Creek Golf Course in Oregon City.
With the stability of a full season under their belts, the Tigers are eager to push the ceiling of the golf program's expectations.
"We're starting to build a little bit," Quant said. "We're out of firsts, let's start doing some other firsts."
The venue for this year's state tournament is a familiar course to Newberg's golfers. The 6,300 yard course is the home of the Oregon State University golf team and a regular host to high school state championship events.
"It's pretty wide open so off the tee you can just swing away. Greens are going to be a little bit more tricky to hit, they're elevated, so a miss on the green equals a 30-yard miss," Swartout said. "On the courses we've playing this year if you miss a green you have an easy chip — this is going to be a lot more difficult if you miss greens."
The unpredictability of the weather could play a significant factor if the Willamette Valley's record-setting spring precipitation continues in May.
"I think they're going to make it … as firm as they can, but obviously this hasn't been a very dry year and so we expect the course to be pretty wet and so it will be pretty attackable and low scores are definitely going to be available," Greller said.
But, obviously, there are downsides to wet weather.
"You're just trying to stay dry as best you can and so trying to manage an umbrella and rain gear, different gloves and just to keep your hands dry and your grips dry." Swartout said. "It just puts way more things in your head to think about during the game then just the next shot at hand."
By virtue of winning the league title, the Tigers bypass the regional qualifier and can spend the next week fine-tuning their games in preparation for the event. Quant plans to take all six of his varsity golfers, alternating between Chadwick and Harris as the team's fifth entries to make sure they both get to play at the state championship.
"I think it's fair for everyone. I want kids to say I played in the state tournament," Quant said. "They've been working their butts off and it wouldn't be fair to drop one of them right now."
For more information on the 2022 6A boys golf state championship entries, go to www.osaa.org/activities/bgf/qualifications following the conclusion of regional qualifying tournaments on May 9.
2022 Pacific Conference Boys Golf Awards
The Newberg boys golf team boasted five of the top 12 golfers in the Pacific Conference this year, each of whom garnered all-conference recognition.
Ka'ena Kaulia, 11, Forest Grove
Ray Greller, 10, Newberg
Cohen Gladheim, 10, Sherwood
Carson Maurer, 11, Century
Garrett Swartout, 12, Newberg
Isaac Ramberg, 12, Glencoe
Brody Bittner, 12, Sherwood
Palmer Thompson, 11, Newberg
William Knudson, 11, Sherwood
Emmet Meiers, 9, Glencoe
Liam Flannigan, 9, Newberg
Drew Harris, 11, Newberg
Alex Johnson, 9, Forest Grove
Jackson Schweitzer, 10, Sherwood
Sam Beyer, 12, McMinnville
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.