The stories behind the success of Spokane’s golf team range from a player who has been hitting off the range since he was 5 years old to a multi-sport athlete doing double-duty this spring to a relative newcomer enjoying quick success.
The Owls won five regular-season tournaments entering their trip to Joplin’s Shifferdecker Golf Course today for Class 1 District 2 action They have hopes of reaching State.
“We expect to win every tournament,” Christian Cooper said.
Cooper was 23rd at State a year ago and is fresh from medalist honors at the SWCL Tournament. His low score this year is a 74 at Aurora’s Honey Creek Golf Course.
He’s been playing for about as long as he can remember.
“My Dad and grandpa started taking me to Rivercut (Golf Course) about every Saturday starting when I was 5 years old,” Cooper said. “That’s where I grew up practicing.”
Cooper also has honed his skills, particularly his putting, at home. He has a putting green in the basement of his family’s house.
“The putting green is about 60 feet long and 30 feet wide with two cups,” he said. “I putt about 500 golf balls a night. When I was about 13, I realized putting makes your score. I would hit in the fairway and hit onto the green and then three putt.”
Cooper has learned his lessons well. He has an amazing streak of three-putting only once this season entering Districts.
“Yeah, that would be great,” Spokane No. 2 player Jackson Bray said with an envious sigh. “’I’ve had a few three-putts this year.”
Bray, too, doesn’t underestimate the importance of putting.
"Most good players can get the ball to the green,” he said. “But the most important thing is putting. That’s where most of your strokes can happen. If you three-putt, that’s not good.”
Bray is mixing in golf with track this spring. Earlier this school year, he ran cross county and played basketball.
Perhaps the most intriguing story of Spokane player involves the rapid progress of No. 3 player Peyton Bonzer. He would still be considered a novice in most golf circles, but broke into the 80s this year.
“This is only my second year playing golf. I didn’t pick up a club until last year,” Bonzer said. “I was shooting in the 120s last year and have gotten all the way to 89 this year. It was discouraging at first because I didn’t even know how to swing a golf club. I got laughed at. Once I learned the fundamentals and was able to contribute and help the team win, it was so much more fun”
Even veteran golfers could learn a lesson from Bonzer on staying composed on the course.
“It’s a relaxing sport. I feel at home on the golf course,” Bonzer said. “Everything’s nice and easy and flows together for me. I play bad if I think too much.”