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Prep golfers shake rust, renew friendships at Circling Raven high school tournament

UPDATED: Tue., May 26, 2020

Gonzaga Prep’s Nate Plaster putts on the 18th hole during the State 4A boys golf tournament on  May 22, 2019, at Qualchan Golf Course. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Prep’s Nate Plaster putts on the 18th hole during the State 4A boys golf tournament on May 22, 2019, at Qualchan Golf Course. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

WORLEY, Idaho – They competed, joked around with teammates and complimented playing partners after hitting a quality shot.

All the things high school golfers normally do every spring but haven’t been able to do since their season was shelved by the coronavirus pandemic.

Eighty-three players teed it up Tuesday at the Circling Raven High School Championship, one of the first competitive sporting events staged in the region in two-plus months. Four players from Ephrata made a three-hour drive to participate.

“It was so fun to be out here again,” said Lewis and Clark senior Darby Rickel, who is headed to Creighton to continue her career. “It kind of sucks that I missed my senior season, but this is nice and I got to play with one of my teammates (Marina Lopez).

“We had three seniors on our team and they’re out here playing, too. My coach (Michelle Grafos, as a spectator) was here and it just feels like we got a high school tournament again and I’m so thankful Circling Raven was willing to do this.”

The event wasn’t affiliated with Washington or Idaho state high school associations. Players paid $40 for green fees and lunch and could choose to play as individuals in a stroke-play tournament or in a two-person best-ball format.

“When I saw their season was cut short, I wanted to do something the kids could participate in and have a little competition,” said Circling Raven pro David Von, who coached track at Ferris for 18 years and assisted golf teams at Ferris and Mt. Spokane the past two years. “I have a daughter doing track in college and having coached kids for so long, I know how big spring sports are for them.”

Gonzaga Prep senior Nate Plaster is usually hard on himself after a so-so round, but that wasn’t the case after he and teammate Will Reeves finished sixth in the best-ball competition.

“The course definitely beat me today,” said Plaster, who will join Washington State’s team this fall. “But I love it out here, just this area and this course. I’m not mad. I know I usually get a little bit angry after I play bad, but I just had fun today.

“It’s fun that we get to do something like this in a time when everything is pretty uncertain.”

G-Prep would have been one of the favorites at the state tournament, originally scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday at Liberty Lake. The Bulldogs placed second, first and second the past three seasons.

But there is more to G-Prep’s team than winning state trophies.

“People think a sports team, especially like golf, is just a bunch of random kids together,” Plaster said. “For us, it was our best friends. It was the kids we hung out with every day, during the weekend. The past four years I wouldn’t change a thing. Obviously, coronavirus sucks, but I’m not going to pout. I’m grateful for what we had.”

G-Prep senior Matt McGann and junior Tommy Kimmel shot 5-under-par 67 to win the best ball by one stroke over Alexander Cooke and Matthew Durkin. Kimmel said he hasn’t missed a day of practice “in months. I went down to Phoenix, I’d go out at 5 a.m. and play like 45 holes.”

Mead brothers Matt and Ben Jones placed third at 3 under.

“This season would have been our first playing together,” said Matt, a senior, who couldn’t resist needling his freshman brother. “I had to carry him out there. My back was getting sore after about the sixth hole, but it was fun.”

Mead’s Ty Anderson shot 3-over 75 to place first in the stroke-play tournament.

Bonners Ferry’s Avery Bayer took top honors for the girls with a 78, one stroke ahead of Mead’s Taylor Mularski. Central Valley’s Kami Twining and Lake City’s Kyla Currie cruised to the best-ball title with a 7-under 65.

Appreciative players and parents repeatedly thanked Von for organizing the tournament. Von said the course might hold another prep event in June.

Rickel’s last competitive round was at a Washington Junior Golf Association event in the fall.

“It’s been so long,” she said. “I’m just so happy we were out here.”

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