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The Tigers' Connor Henderson leads a junior trio of boys golfers including Kevin Brown and Max Niemi.

COURTESY PHOTO - Tigard junior Connor Henderson hits his tee shot at the par-4 7th hole at Tualatin Country Club. Henderson shot a tournament best 70 during the team's Three Rivers League event April 19, at Oregon Golf Club in West Linn.Golf may be an individual game, but as a team, the Tigard Tigers boys pack a solid punch.

Head coach Robert Coelho said he had roughly 20 kids come out for this year's boys team, but noted four as what he feels will be the key contributors for one of the state's more competitive teams.

Led by junior Connor Henderson, who shot a 2-under-par 70 en route to low individual honors, the Tigers placed second with a four-person total of 302, just a shot behind winner Lake Oswego (301) in the team's first event of the year, on April 19 at Oregon Golf Club in West Linn.

Henderson's round was highlighted by back-to-back birdies on his second and third holes of the day, and the three-year varsity player played consistently throughout, carding 1-under-par 35s on both the front and back nine.

Closely behind Henderson were sophomore Douglas Bailey, who went 35-38 on his way to a 1-over-par 73; junior Kevin Brown, with a 78; Max Niemi, with an 81; and Brady Jordan, with an 89.

The junior trio of Henderson, Brown and Niemi have built quite a chemistry and improved significantly in their time at Tigard High, but also by way of the Oregon Golf Association's summer events played throughout the state, according to Coelho. The coach said he has been impressed with the trio's continually improving work ethic and added that their drive has become infectious throughout the program.

"I think these three guys are pushing the standard of our team and the scores," Coelho said. "The kids know if they want to play varsity, they're going to have to post a decent score."

Coelho said Henderson, who narrowly missed qualifying for the state playoffs his freshman season, is always capable of posting a low score and plans to try and qualify for this year's U.S. Open. He added that Brown — a co-captain — was a second-team all-Three Rivers League honoree in 2019, and that Niemi — the other co-captain — has been battling injury but has been vastly improving and too brings a wealth of experience.

COURTESY PHOTO - Tigard's Max Niemi hits a putt during a recent practice. Niemi is one of three juniors leading the Tigers this season.
The experience of all three has been aided by summer competition, something Coelho says is invaluable when trying to take the next step in the world of competitive golf.

"I think it's great that a lot of these kids play in the summer," the coach said. "These guys have gotten to know and have played with a lot of the other competitive kids in the area, and they've seen what they need to do to compete."

Much of that improvement is a form of maturation as well, which is often manifested by way of a better understanding of what it takes to improve. While most young golfers are enamored with the long game, Coelho will tell you it's with the short game that allow most to make the biggest strides.

"I always preach to the kids to learn the game from the green to the tee, not from the tee to the green," Coelho said. "Everyone would do themselves a tremendous favor by learning how to chip, learning how to putt, then letting the long game come to you."

Sound advice for the veterans, but also for the team's youth — of which they have plenty.

Coelho speaks glowingly of Bailey, who is just a sophomore, along with freshman Zach Erdmann, whom the coach said comes from a golfing family.

Due to COVID-19, the team will be playing just five events this season, including a one-day district event. In addition to that, there will be a culminating week that many hoped would result in a state competition of some sort, but Coelho said that as of yet, nothing along those lines has come to fruition.

Certainly, both the coach and kids would've hoped for something more, but Coelho is sure to let his kids know they should be grateful for what is opposed to what isn't.

"I keep telling the kids that we've got to be grateful for what we have," the coach said. "We're getting a season. Yeah, it's a shortened season, but so was football, so will be basketball and everything else, so we just have to take what we get and do the best we can."

And how do things look for the team going forward? Nothing but up, according to their coach.

"Absolutely, I'm excited for next year," Coelho said. "We don't have a senior out there, so we return everyone and have some middle school kids that will be coming in. The future is bright for Tigard High School golf."

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