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.”
Hoolehan’s low score made up for an off day for Pendleton’s usual No. 1, Pyper McCallum. The sophomore looked off for most of his round, shooting a seven-over 43 on the front 9. He finished with a total 84.
The Bucks took second overall out of the 11 teams at the invitational behind solid outings from Zack Peterson and Easton Powaukee, whose stroke counts ended at 86 and 89 respectively. The team shot a 336 to edge La Grande by a single stroke for silver.
“They all kind of stepped up compared to what we’ve been doing which made it all kind of a team effort,” Pendleton coach Nels Nelson said of his team. “Pyper will rebound from this I’m sure, though.”
The Bucks were a far second to Hanford’s 313 in first place. The Hermiston Bulldogs finished in seventh place and Mac-Hi took 10th.
Hermiston’s No. 1 Keegan Crafton also shot poorly, finishing with a 91, but the Dawgs third golfer Connor Lloyd made up for that with a 79. His score brought him in at sixth place.
Lloyd began his round on hole No. 5 in the shotgun-start formated tournament and there he found a serious confidence booster. A par 5 hole, Lloyd booted his second shot into the deep bunker along the green and hoped just to save par with a two-putt. Instead, he chipped up on the flat and drained a 20-foot putt for birdie.
Not every moment was so shining on a day that swung back and forth on the weather spectrum. In just a matter of three or four holes, golfers were forced to trade out accessories. Sunglasses were pocketed in favor of umbrellas to block the stinging hail and rain, only to shed their jackets moments later.
It made for a wild ride, Lloyd said, especially because he played the entire round without a ball towel.
“I was just trying to keep my glove from being soaked because I lost my towel,” said Lloyd, whose towel dropped off his bag while he was carrying it to his first hole of the round.