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Iron play strongest suit for Scapppose High golfer in his final OGA major event

PMG FILE PHOTO: KYLE GARCIA - Scappoose's Chase Elliott, who will be a senior next school year, shot back-to-back 75s for a top-five finish in Central Oregon.In his final Oregon Golf Association junior major of the summer, Scappoose's Chase Elliott tied for fifth in the Central Oregon Junior Championship on July 22-23.

The tournament was played on two courses, with day one taking place at Meadow Lakes Golf Course in Prineville and day two at Eagle Crest Resort Course in Redmond.

Elliott wound up at 6-over-par 150 with two rounds of 75.

Collin Hodgkinson shot 72-70 for a 142 total and three-stroke victory over Graham Moody (72-73).

The only others ahead of Elliott were Peter Bouchard (78-70—148) and Arnav Reddy (74-75—149).

Elliott shared fifth in the 34-player, Boys 14-18 division field with Jonathan Scott, who also carded rounds of 75-75.

Elliott's first round was fairly clean across the board, with four bogeys and a birdie on No. 17. He wasn't ecstatic about the round, but figured he had to take what he could get.

"I felt like on the first day I got the most out of my round," he said. "I missed a lot of makeable birdie putts so I was having to settle for pars, but I really didn't have that bad of a round. After I saw everybody else's scores, the lowest score was even par and I shot 3-over so I wasn't that disappointed."

Meadow Lakes is a tough course, too, with plenty of water hazards to navigate and tight fairways. Though it isn't terribly long, it features some holes that are plenty difficult, including a 235-yard par-3 (the 12th) and a 593-yard par-5 (the 14th).

"There were some really long holes that I had to take a 3-wood and just have a way longer approach shot," Elliott said. "There were some 430-yard par-4s, which are long, but when you're hitting 3-wood, it's made even longer."

Elliott was forced to use his 3-wood since the course was narrower and his control is better with it than with a driver. His driving was up and down for the most part, a common theme this summer. It's been frustrating at times for him to not generate the power he wants, but in the end, he's just aiming for quality shots.

"It's frustrating when you're 20 yards short of everybody else because you're hitting 3-wood, or it's even more frustrating when you're the same distance as them with your 3-wood and you're like, 'If I can hit my driver, I'd be way closer than everybody else,'" Elliott said. "But if I'm hitting 3-wood good, I'm hitting fairways, I can't really complain that much."

Fortunately for Elliott, his irons were sharp, setting him up for putts no longer than three or four feet. However, those medium-range shots of eight to 10 feet were not falling as easily for him, costing him some birdie opportunities.

"I just wasn't putting well," Elliott said. "They just weren't falling for me."

The second day at Eagle Crest was up and down, the highlight a 2-under 34 on the front nine and the lowlight a 41 on the back. No. 14 was particularly rough for him, with his drive going out of bounds and his second drive finding a bunker. Elliott had to settle for a triple bogey on the par-4.

"That pretty much spiraled my round," Elliott said. "It was pretty much that one hole."

Even then, the tough back nine couldn't take away what was a stellar first nine holes. He had birdies on the third and fifth holes that kept him in the tournament.

"The front nine was pretty flawless," Elliott said. "I played just about as good as I could have. I had some really good approach shots and made birdie on those two holes, and then I had some realistic birdie chances from like 10 or 15 feet that I just missed. I can't complain."

Elliott had the chance to practice at Eagle Crest a day before the start of the tournament, something rare for him this summer. While Meadow Lakes wasn't quite his fancy, Eagle Crest caught his eye for more than just how he played the course.

"I think it's just cool to have context to the course," Elliott said. "It's really cool because a couple of the first holes go through a canyon, and it's really cool just to see the fairway winding down the canyon with trees and sagebrush on the sides. The hole layouts are really nice."

Even though he appreciates the aesthetic, the course was challenging.

"It's definitely not friendly," Elliott said. "The holes are tough, but sometimes it's just a cool-looking hole. Even though there's water on both sides and out of bounds on both sides, it's so cool."

Both days, Elliott felt he hit his irons well. He's had success using his irons to get solid approach shots all summer, and that trend continued.

"The second day, I was hitting my irons really well until the very end," he said. "I was hitting a lot of greens, so I wasn't having to chip that often. It just makes it more stress-free."

Unfortunately for Elliott, fairway play is only one facet of the game. His putting is something he'll continue to work on, but driving will be a point of emphasis for him, as well, as he focuses on ball position and swing speed.

"If I get the ball too far forward, I start to really have some bad misses, which I think is why I've been hitting my driver really bad," Elliott said. "And then I was just swinging too hard, so I just got think about slowing down my tempo and swinging lighter at it."

Elliott said he would turn his focus to the Columbia Edgewater Club Championship, set for Aug. 9-11, in Portland. Although the tournament is more laid-back, he still has high expectations for himself.

"I want to shoot under par for the three days," Elliott said. "I don't really care how low I go, I just want to have a combined score under par."

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