RIDGEFIELD — They were grouped together based on talent, not age.
Two seniors and two freshmen, representing different high schools in Southwest Washington, spending a day together on the golf course.
Going into the Jeff Hudson Invitational Tournament at Tri-Mountain Golf Course on Tuesday, these were the top-ranked players from Camas, Columbia River, Mountain View and Union.
Keith Lobis of Union is the defending Class 4A district champion.
Kyle Gomez of Columbia River finished fifth at the Class 2A state tournament last spring.
And the two new guys — Graham Moody of Mountain View and Owen Huntington of Camas — were playing in their first 18-hole event as high school competitors.
The elder statesman from the Class of 2018 could not say enough about the youngsters from the Class of 2021.
“I knew they were going to be good golfers,” said Lobis, adding he has known them for years, even played together in junior events. “They are definitely the future of Clark County high school golf. It was great to see them in an actual high school tournament. I’m excited for what golf has coming up with these two.”
Gomez had played with Huntington before and he said he had heard of Moody from all his success in junior events.
“It was cool to be able to play with them,” Gomez said. “They’re so young, and they’re so good. Since (Spencer) Tibbits, I can’t remember anyone being better their freshman years.”
That is high praise. Tibbits, who recently graduated from Fort Vancouver, won three state titles in four years.
Both freshmen said they appreciated the respect shown by Lobis and Gomez, adding they could not have picked a better group for their first big high school event. The Hudson Invitational attracts golfers from 16 schools from Southwest Washington.
It turned out, none of these No. 1s won the event. Dylan Henry topped his teammate Lobis and Prairie’s Dante Heitschmidt in a playoff. All three finished 2-under par for the round, playing in windy conditions.
Moody finished with a 73 and Huntington recorded a 74. Gomez, by the way, injured his back Monday while weight lifting. He did not crack the top 10.
Still, this is early in the golf season. Really early, in fact, for boys golf. In Southwest Washington, high school boys teams play in the fall, compete all the way to their district tournaments. Then they wait until spring for the state tournaments in each classification.
“One thing about state, it’s really difficult for players from down here,” Lobis said. “Everybody else is coming in fresh.”
Lobis, who shot a 66 in the final round to win the district title last fall, struggled at state in the spring. His senior year, he vows, will be different. Lobis, who expects to play golf for Gonzaga, said he will dedicate even more practice time during the harsh winter months.
Gomez wants to improve his showing, too. Not just for him, though.
“I want our team to go as far as we can,” he said of the Chieftains. “Individually, the goal is to win state. Definitely win district is the goal for now, then keep working (over the winter) and try to take state.”
Of course, all golfers have to qualify for the state tournament. But it is fair to say that all four in this featured group, including the freshmen, would consider it a bad season if they did not make it to the final high school tournament of the spring.
Moody said he has plenty of tournament experience on the junior circuit. He knows there are plenty of strong, older players in high school golf, but he still believes in himself.
“I don’t really know what to expect,” Moody said. “Just play my best, and the wins will take care of themselves.”
Huntington, too, has that junior golf experience. In fact, he is coming off a strong summer.
“I just want to keep in that rhythm,” he said, meaning this fall and hopefully to state in the spring. “There is no reason why I can’t go there and play my best.”
The new-to-high-school golfers also appreciate their teams.
“I love it,” Huntington said of being able to represent his school.
“It’s cool to be with them,” he said, referring to the other Papermakers. “Not just playing for myself.”
Moody enjoys the team approach as well, playing for coach James Peterson at Mountain View.
“He’s encouraging. He doesn’t focus on results. He focuses on the process,” Moody said. “Everybody is so nice, encouraging, and supportive.”
The two members of the older generation in this grouping are starting their final seasons of high school team golf.
Lobis said it has been “awesome” representing Union. He remembers learning from the older Titans. Now, he is the teacher.
“I want to pave the way for the younger players to keep up the high level of play that Union has had the last few years,” Lobis said.
At Columbia River, Gomez is enjoying his new role, too. Last year, there were four seniors on the team.
“I was used to being the little brother. This year, I feel I can help teach the kids the way to be. Not necessarily as golfers, but as a person,” Gomez said. “They kind of look up to me. It’s cool being in that position.”
Part of that is showing grace and sportsmanship at every event, with golfers from other schools.
Tuesday at Tri-Mountain, a couple of old veterans took a walk with a couple of freshmen.
The state of the game of golf — talent and sportsmanship — is strong in Clark County, today and tomorrow.