Prep golf: For Heppner, these rounds are for real

<p>Heppner freshman Paige Grieb tees off on the first hole at the Pendleton Country Club earlier this month. The Mustang girls will play at Eagle Crest Ridge Course in Redmond while the boys will be participating in the small-school golf state meet on Monday at Quail Valley Golf Course in Banks.</p>

The Heppner boys’ golf team took a detour on its way to a tournament in Portland earlier this season, stopping off for a practice round at Quail Valley Golf Course in Banks.

It was no coincidence that the 6,628 yard, par 72 course is the site of this year’s boys’ Class 3A/2A/1A state championships.

“We do that every year ... because we intend to be there, we hope, and we want them to plant that seed that this is where you’re going to come play so go home and work on it,”?said head coach Greg Grant.

The Mustangs did just that and after winning their district tournament will return to Quail Valley for 36 holes starting on Monday.

“The course wasn’t too hard,”?said district champion Austin Gutierrez. “It’s kind of wide open so it’s kind of easy, nothing to worry about.”

Teammate Zac Orem had seen the course in his freshman season at state, which rotates between four courses, and said the Mustangs may want to wait and see how the fairways and greens are playing in Sunday’s practice round before making any judgments.

“The course wasn’t in the greatest shape when we went. It was really wet,”?he said.

The Mustangs’ practice course at Willow Creek Country Club has some pretty slow greens, Orem said, and the team has a habit of showing up early no matter where they’re playing to get acclimated.

“We’re usually one of the first teams there so we get to the range, and get used to the greens, because our greens are a lot slower,”?he said.

But it will take more than a few extra swings on the range for the Mustangs to get into the state title race it seems. Heppner shot a team score of 336 on the first day of districts, one of their best rounds of the season.

“We have St. Mary’s and those guys,”?Orem said of the top competition at state. “We played them at Pumpkin Ridge this year and they shot in the 320’s, so that’s where we’re going to have to thrive off that pressure.”

Grant said he’s got a determined squad that can’t be counted out for a medal, though.

“This is a group that’s been working hard,”?he said. “This group of kids has been together two or three years now and (the district title) is the fruits of those labors.”

Also in action early next week will be the Mustang girls’ team, which is taking on the state field at Eagle Crest Ridge Course in Redmond, a 5,612-yard par 72 golf course.

“I’ve never played there before, never even been there,”?said sophomore Blake Greenup, who led the team with a second-place finish at districts.

Grant said his goal for the girls’ team is simple.

“Play without fear and go see how much better you can be,”?he said.

That’s good advice for both the boys and girls of the Heppner Mustangs team, which will bring back most of their top golfers next season.

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Contact Matt Entrup at mentrup@eastoregonian.com or (541) 310-7626.

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