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The Tigers are positioned to make a run at a trophy at the state championships later this month.

COURTESY PHOTO - The Tigard boys golf team is one of the premiere teams in the state. Left to right: Senior Max Niemi, freshman Jennings Oelke, senior Connor Henderson, senior Kevin Brown, junior Douglas Bailey.The Tigard boys golf team is showing out, but like with any athlete, they know they can do better.

"The boys are playing really well right now," Tigard head coach Stu Bailey said. "I don't really know what our ceiling is, but I don't think we're there yet. I think our best golf is still ahead of us."

The Tigers have managed wins in each of their four league tournaments this season despite facing off with state power Lake Oswego on a weekly basis.

On April 26, many of the state's premier competition teed it up at Trysting Tree Golf Course in Corvallis for the 6A state preview event. Lake Oswego got the best of the Tigers on that day, shooting a 3-under par team total of 281, but Tigard finished with a very respectable 287 en route to a second-place finish among the tournament's 27 teams.

Individually, junior Douglas Bailey led the way for the Tigers, shooting a 2-under par 69, followed by senior Connor Henderson (71), freshman Jennings Oelke (73), and seniors Max Niemi (74) and Kevin Brown (75).

Henderson, who'll be attending and playing golf at Iona College in the fall, has a team-low 66 to his name this season, while Brown boasts a 68, and there's been no dearth of low numbers from the entirety of the varsity roster. But Coach Bailey says golfers are never fully satisfied with their performance, and his group is no different.

"Those are really good scores," he said. "But I would bet that if you asked them, they're definitely not satisfied with that."

Coach Bailey — who also coaches basketball — added that part of what makes this group so special is their work ethic, but also noted their heightened level of cohesiveness that separates them from most.

"I've been coaching basketball for 25 years, and the best teams I've ever had were the ones that were the closest together," he said. "This group does a really good job of hanging out and trying to include each other. Even the seniors, they're so tight, but they always include everyone."

Bailey added that the trio's work ethic is off the charts and that their tireless effort has been a great example to the younger kids.

"I've never had a group of seniors that worked this hard," he said. "They spend every single day out on the course, have great attitudes and set a great precedent for the other kids. It's been a pleasure being around them."

In addition to the three seniors, Bailey's son Douglas has been a key contributor to the team, and the coach said he's just beginning to scratch the surface of his potential.

Coach Bailey said prior to last week's event at Trysting Tree that the junior had been working hard and that a breakthrough was coming, and that prediction came to fruition with the team-leading 69 at the state preview event.

What has caught the coach a bit by surprise, however, has been the play of Oelke.

"I knew Jennings was a good golfer, but I didn't know he was going to win a spot on varsity this quickly," Bailey said. "He has shown that he fits right in."

Obviously, with their success to this point, the Tigers are dreaming big. The team's scores and finishes have put them among the favorites as the state tournament approaches, and Bailey said that from the beginning of the year the kids have been focused on a league title with a top-three finish at state in their crosshairs.

But the coach said he and his team are also very aware that the competition is stiff, and they assume nothing regarding future success. Yet, at the same time, they believe they belong in that group of legitimate contenders, and they won't be intimidated by the competition when the time comes.

"We're not delusional," Bailey said. "We know that there are some really good golfers in the state of Oregon. But the kids are also seeing our scores, and I think they're starting to believe that on a given day, they can probably hang with the best."

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