By AJ MAZZOLINI
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.
The Pendleton girls finished third out of four teams with a 462.
McCallum’s star-studded day hinged on the short game and making putts. The sophomore scored only two holes under par but managed to minimize his mistakes and power through a soggy course.
The Buck was sitting at one over par coming down the stretch back to the clubhouse after starting the day on hole No. 9. McCallum said he was feeling good about his positioning on the leaderboard but what he did on the sixth hole cemented that feeling.
McCallum stroked a 200-plus yard drive and a second shot pulled him to within 10 feet of the pin. He sunk the putt to eagle the par-5 hole. Still, counting up his strokes on the walk back to the clubhouse, he said he didn’t realize he would be winning by such a margin.
“I was hoping so,” McCallum said, “but I was just trying to play it cool.”
He credits his success in the early golf season to his Pendleton teammates, specifically Garrett Corea. The fifth man on the Bucks’ crew has always been around to go out and hit balls with McCallum when he needs to work on his swing, he said.
No team better exemplified a perfect working unit than the Hermiston boys on Wednesday. Four Bulldogs shot 81 or better, topped by Keegan Crafton’s 79. Connor Lloyd, Nolan Briscoe and Jordan Turner all shot 81s.
Crafton’s performance, which left him tied for second after 18 holes, was actually aided by the chilly weather, he said. Equipped with a pocket full of hand warmers and an umbrella, Crafton’s short game seemed made for the slow, wet greens.
“Playing at The Dalles, they were a lot faster and these just slowed up a lot,” Crafton said about last week’s 91-stroke round at The Dalles Invitational. “Today’s were way easier.”
In a playoff of three 79-stroke shooters, Crafton fell to fourth overall with Pendleton’s Walker Hoolehan and Mavric Goss of La Grande beating him on hole No. 1. Goss would eventually outlast Hoolehan as well for the second-place prize.
On the girls’ side, Hermiston’s Janci Spoo was thrown into a playoff of her own after shooting an 87. The score tied her with La Grande’s Carrie Wallace, but it didn’t take long for a champion to appear and be crowned. Spoo beat
Wallace by a stroke on their first playoff hole to clinch the individual victory.
Teammate Laikyn Carnes finished third on the girls’ side with a score of 95.
Spoo’s 87 was her best 18-hole round of her career, but she didn’t warm to the cool afternoon and rain quite like Crafton did. The heavy precipitation messed with her swing at times, making her sunny score even more impressive in
“It really motivates me because if I was playing this well in these types of conditions, I know I could hit a lot better in good conditions,” Spoo said.
Spoo’s scorecard looked good from the get-go with a pair of nice holes in No. 4 and No. 6 after starting her round on the third hole of the course. A par coming off of a long drive on No. 4 got the good vibes flowing and she followed it up with a birdie two holes later.
Back in the boys’ competition, Mac-Hi’s Ryan Bullock paced the Pioneers with an 80-stroke performance, but his team finished fifth out of the sixth schools with 381 total strokes. Bullock’s 37 on the front nine had him in competition with some of the bests at the tournament before a 43 on the back knocked him down a notch.
Mac-Hi did not enter a girls’ team to the invitational.