Woodburn's Beyer wins 4A golf championship
It took 18 holes to whittle the 58-man field of the 2021 4A boys golf state showcase down to the top two golfers.
Cole Beyer needed two more holes to stake his claim as best 4A golfer in the state.
The Woodburn senior won a sudden death playoff against Tillamook sophomore Elliott Lee on May 18 at Trysting Tree Golf Club, sinking a six-foot putt for birdie on the second hole of the course to become just the second individual state high school golf champion in Woodburn history.
"I don't think it's set in quite yet, the magnitude of being a state champion," Beyer said the following day. "I felt like I just kind of went out there and played my game. I didn't let anything distract me, anything provoke me, anything I wouldn't do regularly."
Beyer shot a three-under 68 on the Corvallis course, which hosted the one-day championship showcase in place of the typical two-day state tournament organized by the OSAA.
Playing in the first group of the day, the Woodburn senior teed off along with defending 4A state champion Nick Watts of Marist and with Seaside's Curtis Kunde, who had placed 10th at state in 2019.
After bogeying the first hole and missing an eight-foot putt for birdie on the second, Beyer found himself down by three strokes early.
But the tide soon turned. Heading into the 400-yard par four seventh hole, Beyer connected on a long putt to sink his first birdie of the day and pull to an even score.
"He rolled in maybe a 10- or 15-foot putt for birdie on seven and coach (Enrique) Sandoval and I kind of looked at each other and said maybe this is what he needed," Woodburn head coach Neil Wilhelm said.
Beyer chipped in a birdie from 15 yards out on the next hole and finished the front nine with a one-under 34. Kunde still held a one-stroke lead, but Watts had bogeyed the eighth and ninth holes and was three strokes behind.
Meawhile in the second group, Lee had put up his own 34 on the front nine, and Marist's Alec Vendetti had shot a 33 to co-lead the field with Kunde.
The Woodburn senior continued to roll, sinking a birdie putt on the 10th to pull even with Kunde and Vendetti. Kunde retook the lead with a birdie on the 11th, but bogeyed five of his next six holes to fall out of the running.
Beyer parred his next three holes before picking up his fourth birdie of the day on the par five 14th hole to go three under.
"You have to have a really short memory," Beyer said. "Even the good holes, you can't get too excited, you can't get bummed. It's truly a mental game, and you don't get enough credit that you have to focus five or six hours."
The next hole put Beyer to the test. Looking at a 30-foot birdie attempt from the fringe of the green, Beyer's putt missed the mark and rolled 20 feet past the pin. Needing to sink the long putt to maintain his share of the lead, Beyer stepped up and rolled it in.
"This was maybe the shot of the tournament," Wilhelm said. "He rolled in his par putt from 20 feet and you could just tell that the other two players were, 'Oh my gosh. What do we got to do here?' He's just on fire. That was huge."
Beyer parred his remaining three holes to finish eight strokes ahead of Watts and four strokes ahead of Kunde in his group. In the following group, Vendetti had bogeyed the 12th hole to fall behind Beyer, but pulled within a stroke after birdying the 16th. Needing to gain one more stroke to force a tie, Vendetti bogeyed the 18th hole to finish with a 70, two strokes behind.
That just left Lee, who was quietly putting together an equally spectacular back nine performance. Lee birdied the par five 16th hole to pull even with Beyer, but lost a stroke with a bogey on the 17th.
"(Lee) got word that in order to tie for the lead he needed to birdie on 18," Wilhelm said. "Sure enough he nailed it to put it into a playoff."
"Both kids wanted to play," Wilhelm said. "They were given the option to be co-state champions or they could play it off. Both kids to their credit wanted to settle it on the course. "
Being in the first two groups, Lee and Beyer waited around the 18th to watch the other golfers finish.
"They told us that we were going to have to wait for all the boys to come in, so it was going to be about two and a half hours," Beyer said.
But a tee time opened sooner than expected, and both boys were given 15 minutes to warm up. Beyer took a few practice shots and headed back to the first hole where he shot his only bogey on the day six hours earlier.
"I knew I had to put that in the back of my mind, just kind of throw it away," Beyer said.
Both players put it on the green in regulation. Lee's 25-foot attempt came close, but was left three feet short of the cup. With the state title on the line, Beyer had a 20-foot downhill putt, giving it a light touch that pulled within an inch and a half of the hole.
"It was one of those putts where you hit it too hard and you'd have a pretty tricky one coming back," Wilhelm said. "He hit a good putt and it didn't quite come in."
The two players holed out to set up the championship-deciding second playoff hole.
Beyer powered a 300-yard drive to the hole, which veered left into the greenside bunker. Lee followed with a shorter shot that left him 60 yards out, and his follow-up rolled 20-feet past the hole.
Facing his only bunker shot of the day, Beyer felt relaxed in the sand.
"Those lopsided shots are in a place where I feel more comfortable where others might be," he said.
"He had to get it somewhat close, and he got up there and he stuck it about six feet away from the pin," Wilhelm said.
Lee's following birdie attempt from 20 feet out mirrored Beyer's attempt from the previous playoff hole, missing the cup by just an inch. That left Beyer all the room he needed to put his name in the history books.
"He just goes through his routine and nails it," Wilhelm said. "I'm not sure my heart has beat that hard in a long time. I was way more nervous than Cole. He handled it like a champ, just went about his business."
It was a historic moment for the Woodburn golfer who missed his junior season due to COVID-19 and had one last opportunity to put his name in the Bulldog record books. Beyer was making his third trip to state, having placed 35th as a freshman in 2018 and fourth overall in 2019.
"It's kind of been on my mind the last two years," Beyer said. "Getting fourth my sophomore year and then not having a junior season — this is definitely on my bucket list to be somewhere near the top."
Beyer becomes the second individual state golf champion in Woodburn history, joining 1984 AA/A title winner Ken Allen who shot a two-day score of 150 (77-73) at McNary Golf Club.
Beyer's round is tied for the seventh-best individual score at a 4A state championship event in state history, two strokes off the state record for 18 holes set by Jesse Schulte of Siuslaw in 2004 and matched by Craig Ronne of Klamath Union in 2018.
"It kind of worked to my advantage, because I came in knowing I had to go low on one day," Beyer said. "I had a lot of confidence going in."
"There's nobody who wanted it more," Wilhelm said. "That was his storybook ending. The amount of time he's put out there, it's so good to see that pay off."
Cole Beyer cemented himself as one of the best golfers in Woodburn High School history, becoming the only Bulldog to play in three championship events and joining Ken Allen (1984) as the program's only individual state title winners.
2021 - Trysting Tree Golf Club
Cole Beyer - 1st (68)
2019 - Emerald Valley Golf Club
Cole Beyer - 4th (79, 76)
2018 - Emerald Valley Golf Club
*Cole Beyer - 35th (95, 92)
*Beyer competed in the 5A classification in 2018 and in the 4A classification in 2019 and 2021.
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