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Jared Thacker putts a ball. (Photo by Billy Gates)
By AJ MAZZOLINI
East Oregonian


ECHO — Whenever a group of Thackers get together, chances are it’ll be at the golf course. For the Hermiston family, golf is less a game and more of an adhesive — a non-optional sport is the way Jon Thacker puts it.

“It’s a good sport for us to come together,” said Jon’s 15-year-old son JD. “When we have family reunions we have a lot of golfers. We go out and play a lot of tournaments.”

It was a veritable Thacker reunion at the award ceremony of the Umatilla-Morrow County Junior Golf Championship on Monday, as three relatives left Echo Hills Golf Course with winnings. JD, Jared and Cody Thacker each placed in the Top 2 for his age group’s gross score.

The eldest of the golfers, JD, shot the best score in the event, which was for players who completed the junior golf summer program with Hermiston Parks and Recreation. His 41, five over par for the 9-hole course, led all other competitors in any age group by 13 strokes.


 
 
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Jody Tatone (Photo by AJ Mazzolini)
By AJ MAZZOLINI
East Oregonian

MISSION — Pat O’Donnell and Byron Patton rode side by side in their golf cart back to the clubhouse at Wildhorse Golf Course full of smiles. The pair joked that the cart was really the magic behind their excellent opening rounds at the Senior Oregon Open Invitational.

O’Donnell and Patton, both of Portland, turned Wildhorse into their home course Tuesday, putting up the two best scores of the day. Patton shot a 5-under-par 67 round, but even he was left looking up the leaderboard at his pairing partner and O’Donnell’s 65.

The two are golfing buddies even outside of tournament life, playing rounds at Broadmoor Golf Course in northeast Portland. Their golf days together span 20 years and two professional careers, settling now into a perfect give-and-take groove.

“He’s easy to play with,” Patton said.

“I put up with him,” O’Donnell interrupted. “He’s my date when I’m away from the wife.”


 
 
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John Propheter shoots for the pin. (Staff photo by EJ Harris)
By AJ MAZZOLINI
East Oregonian

UMATILLA — Zac Adams dropped the final putt of his round into the cup at Big River Golf Course in Umatilla before strolling back to the clubhouse. His 18-hole score of 82 led the early flight of the boys group at the Northeast Oregon Junior Golf Association Tournament on Monday, but he’d have to wait while the rest of the field trickled in to know his placing for sure.

But Adams, 15, wasn’t feeling solicitous or anxious in any way after one of his best scores of the year. Monday’s was just a summer tournament, one to be played for fun and for practice. The Hermiston boy packaged his own score up in the back of his mind, instead galavanting around the course and catching up with other golfers.

“My friends and I just drove around in the golf cart trying to see how everybody else was doing,” said Adams of the downtime spent with Hermiston High teammates Keegan Crafton and Paden LaCoursiere.


 
 
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Pendleton's Pyper McCallum hits out of the sand. (Photo by AJ Mazzolini)
By AJ MAZZOLINI
East Oregonian

PENDLETON — Walker Hoolehan has succeeded behind his short game thus far in the golf season for Pendleton, but the junior has now tweaked his swing to add distance to the equation. The extra yardage behind his drives and his irons helped Hoolehan to a 77 at the Pendleton Country Club and a third-place finish in the Pendleton Invite on Thursday.

Hoolehan’s 5-over-par score trailed only Hanford’s Eric Dahl and La Grande’s Mavric Goss who tied with a 75 each in first place. The Buckaroo’s long ball was on target all day, but his trusty putter was far from pristine.

“(Thursday), it was just my putting was atrocious. I mean I could have shot way better but I just putted by far the worst I have this season,” Hoolehan said. “Once I get that fixed I’ll be good to go because I’ve finally got my swing fixes going.”


 
 
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Pendleton's Pyper McCallum tees off on the ninth hole on Monday at Wildhorse Resort in Mission. (Photo by EJ Harris)
By AJ MAZZOLINI
East Oregonian

MISSION — Despite no golfers with stroke counts in the double digits, the Hermiston Bulldog girls’ golf team walked away from the Wildhorse Invitational at the Wildhorse Golf Course in Mission with the first-place trophy in hand on Monday.

Exemplifying a game of inches, the Dawgs beat fellow Columbia River Conference school The Dalles Wahtonka by a single stroke 435-436 to take home the title. Janci Spoo and Laikyn Carnes led Hermiston with scores of 100 and 101, but Spoo said it was the team’s No. 3 girl Madison Welch that saved the day for the Dawgs. Welch  was right there with a 105.

 
 
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Hermiston's Connor Lloyd tees off on the 16th hole at the Hermiston Invite at Big River Golf Course in Umatilla. (Photo by EJ Harris)

By AJ MAZZOLINI
East Oregonian


Pendleton’s Pyper McCallum may have won the battle, but the Hermiston Bulldogs won the Big River war.

McCallum blew away the rest of the field at Big River  Golf Course with a one-under-par 69 to win the individual portion of the Hermiston Invite Wednesday. His score was 10 strokes better than any  other player on the day, but the Bulldog pack was just too much.  Hermiston finished with a 322 total stroke count to edge the Bucks — who shot a 330 — for first.
 
 
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Spectators celebrate a birdie on hole 13. (Photo by Neil C. Lauron)
By AJ Mazzolini
The Columbus Dispatch

Close to 100 people sipped frothing beers that quickly disappeared on the hot day. Most of them sat in the shade of a massive tent filled with cooling fans, televisions and a full-service bar.

Down a steep slope from the loungers, Daniel Chopra had just hit his tee shot into a bunker in front of the green at the par-3 No. 13 at Ohio State's Scarlet Course.

The people didn't like that.

"Come on," one spectator sighed from the safety of the shade. "We need a birdie."

Groans turned to cheers when Chopra's chip shot out of the sand rolled perfectly into the cup. He made the birdie.

"All right! Way to go Daniel!" a voice yelled from the crowd. Spectators left their seats and headed to the bar for $1 beers. The timer on the wall counted down from 13 minutes.

That is the scene that overlooks the hole during the Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational, where a golfer's birdie means fans drink half-price beer for 13 minutes on the tournament's "party hole."

 
 
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Lauren Grogan of Columbus in the Columbus Junior tourney. (AJGA photo)
AJGA tournaments let high schoolers impress college coaches

By AJ Mazzolini
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

Maria Mancini entered in two American Junior Golf Association tournaments this summer to see how she could compete against other top high-school golfers from Ohio and across the country.

It turns out, someone was watching her, too.

During the Cleveland Junior Open in June, Mancini finished seventh, impressing herself and Indiana coach Clint Wallman, who offered her a scholarship after she graduates in 2012.

 
 
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(Photo by Ben Coulter)
After several painful competitions (see hockey, lacrosse), the powers that be decided on a more relaxing series finale of AJ Versus. For the last time, the Montana Kaimin presents: AJ Versus golf (mini) with Rose Stepanek.

While deciding to play the golf team, I knew there’s no worldly way I’d be able to keep up on a real golf course. I can’t drive. I can’t chip. I can’t pitch.

But what I can do is putt through a windmill or into a fountain or around a dragon’s tail. Sadly, Missoula’s lone mini golf course at Westside Lanes — best known for its bowling — has no wacky obstacles. Still, it’s better than fairways and sand traps.

 
 
Basketball

The Grizzly men's basketball team fell in overtime at Eastern Washington 59–55 on Saturday, likely dropping out of the running for the Big Sky Conference regular-season title and a chance to host the conference tournament next week.

The Griz final game wrapped up league play at a 12–4 record, 20–9 overall, but they trail Northern Colorado for first place. A win would have guaranteed the Griz a share of the conference crown, but the loss could drop them as low as third depending on Northern Colorado and Weber State's remaining schedule.