Player and coach share special moment
She hit solid drive after solid drive at the state golf tournament.
The best drive of the week, however, might have been the ride home.
Jade Gruher and friends celebrated for 125 miles, talking, laughing, sharing memories. And all the way home, her friends kept reminding her that she was a state champion.
Jade Gruher, a junior from Union, fired a 1-under-par 71 on Wednesday, finishing the two-round tournament at 3-under for a two-stroke victory at the Class 4A girls state tournament at Hawks Prairie Golf Course in Lacey.
“I’ve worked so hard to put up great scores against girls who can play amazing golf,” Gruher said. “This was my good day. A good two days.”
This was special for Union golf coach Gary Mills, as well.
Gruher was the lone individual — girl or boy from Union — to make it to the second day at state. So Mills was able to walk all 18 holes with Gruher.
“Seeing the way she hit the ball and the way that some of the people were reacting to her shots… she was the best ball striker in the tournament,” Mills said.
Gruher and Mills have known each other for almost 10 years. Gruher’s older brother Ben played for the Titans.
“I was just there tagging along,” Jade said of her younger days.
And, yes, absolutely, Jade has family bragging rights now.
“He had it for a long time since he won district two years in a row,” Jade said. “I finally got him. I got something better.”
Gruher recorded a 2-under-par 70 on Tuesday. The pins were in tougher positions on Wednesday, she said, so she was really pleased with her 71 in the final round.
“I was proud of myself,” Gruher said. “No matter where I placed, I played my best.”
Oh yes, that’s the thing about state golf. Unlike professional tournaments, the player in first place does not necessarily tee off last in the final round. In fact, in this case, Gruher teed off early in the day while individuals in team competitions played later. That meant Gruher finished her round and had to wait an excruciating long time to find out where she placed.
“It was nerve racking,” Gruher said. “It was coming down to the last two groups. I went to the putting green. I did some more putting, chipping, just in case there was a playoff.”
There is no live scoring, either. Gotta wait for the scores to be posted after the round.
Jade’s friend and Union golfer Adam Parker kept refreshing the scores on the WIAA app.
“You did it. You won,” he told her.
“No. It can’t be. That’s not right,” Gruher said.
Parker showed her the screen on his phone. The final scores were posted. Jade Gruher was atop the leaderboard.
“I was, ‘You can’t be serious.’ I was speechless. I can’t believe I just did that,” Gruher said.
Mills believed it because he knew it was possible. He had witnessed Gruher’s progress this season.
Still, to actually pull it off, to see her play her best golf at state, well, that was indeed special.
“When she won and everyone was hugging her, I was getting a little choked up,” Mills said. “I’ve known this girl since she was 7 years old. Are you kidding me? She just won a freaking state championship. Holy cow. That was pretty sweet.”
Gruher took it all in as well.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better moment. I shed some tears myself. We hugged it out. He was so proud. It was great to share it with him,” she said.
Gruher said she is already looking forward to next year, too, to try to defend her title.
“I love this school. I love this community here,” Gruher said. “I’m just glad I can represent Union.”
State golf notes:
Jasmine Chen and Jacina Lee of Camas tied for fifth in the tournament, helping the Papermakers finish second in the team competition. … Eli Huntington of Camas was the top finisher in the 4A boys tournament. He placed fifth. … Alex Rigby of Mountain View placed eighth in the 3A boys tournament, helping the Thunder to a fourth-place team finish. … Mountain View’s Annika Yeh tied for 10th in the 3A girls tourney. … Columbia River’s Noah Larson tied for 12th, the top Clark County placer in the 2A tourney. The Rapids finished second in the team standings. Larson, by the way, is a two-sport athlete this week. He is also on the Columbia River baseball team that will be playing in the final four this weekend. … Riley Philbrook of King’s Way Christian tied for fifth in the 1A girls, leading the Knights to a third-place team finish.
For full results from each tournament, go to the WIAA’s golf page: http://wiaa.com/golfscores.aspx