Youth golfers earn access to practice facilities, course
Graham Moody said he and Spencer Tibbits figured they have played hundreds of rounds of golf at Royal Oaks Country Club.
“We’re there until dark or after dark sometimes,” Moody said. “Every day, we’re just trying to get the most out of it.”
Hannah Bowie said she is a better player now, too, because of playing with talented peers such as Moody and Tibbits. Plus, she is always taking advantage of the practice facilities.
Their families are not members of the private club.
Instead, their passion for golf, their excellence in the classroom, and their leadership in the community led them to earning access as recipients in the Royal Oaks Scholarship Program.
For eight years now, the club has awarded scholarships to Clark County sophomores in high school. Usually, it is one boy and one girl per year. The players can use the club for the remainder of their days in high school, or, if they play college golf, through their college years.
Tibbits, an Oregon State golfer and a former Fort Vancouver Trapper, qualified for the U.S. Open last year. Brian Humphreys, who plays for Boise State and is a former Camas Papermaker, also remains on scholarship at Royal Oaks. Moody, who is going into his senior year at Mountain View High School, won the Oregon Junior Am this summer.
Those are just a few of the success stories associated with the program.
“I’m so lucky,” Bowie said of the scholarship. “It’s been a pleasure. I really use it to my advantage. It would have been harder for me to get to where I am today without that scholarship. With that opportunity, I have put in so much work.”
Bowie is going into her senior year at Hockinson High School. Formerly a club volleyball player, she still plans on playing high school volleyball (if there is a season) but golf has become her priority in athletics, she said. She wants to play college golf.
Marcia LaFond, club manager at Royal Oaks, said it is not easy to decide the winners. In fact, a few times the club has given scholarships to more than one boy and one girl in a year.
“We’re not looking for the best golfers, necessarily, in Clark County. What we are looking for are good, rounded individuals,” LaFond said.
The requirements: Love for golf. A grade-point average of 3.0 or better. And service outside of school.
“When we choose someone, it’s just joy,” LaFond said.
Mark Curtis, the former president of Royal Oaks, was instrumental in starting this program. It was not a matter of just setting up a scholarship for area golfers, though. Royal Oaks contacted the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association as well as the NCAA to make sure any such scholarship would not affect eligibility.
With that permission secured, the club came up with criteria for the scholarship as well as expectations for the scholarship winners.
“Great golfers become great golfers by practicing,” Curtis said. “We tell the applicants, the buckets of balls don’t have a bottom. That allows them to hit balls and practice.”
Bowie credits that access for her improvement. She said she got a late start to golf, but the progress she has made pushed her, driving her to wanting to become better and better.
“The practice facilities are outstanding,” Bowie said. “Three ranges. Chipping. Putting. Anything you can think of, they pretty much have.”
Then there is the course itself. Curtis said Royal Oaks is a test, and any young golfer who can succeed at Royal Oaks will be ready for the challenge at most other courses.
“It’s a great facility to play the game they love,” he said. “I just wanted this facility available to the golfing youth of Clark County. No reason we shouldn’t share this tremendous asset that we have.”
“Getting to play that course, then playing the courses we play throughout the summer, they feel pretty easy compared to Oaks,” Moody said.
Beyond the practice facilities and the course, the scholarship athletes are also encouraged to play golf with members. This gives them more interaction with adults.
“So many stories get exchanged,” Moody said.
“All the members are very welcoming, very nice people,” Bowie added. “Kind of like a family almost.”
Moody said he played Royal Oaks once prior to the scholarship.
“Obviously it’s a real, real special place,” he said.
Then he heard about the scholarship.
“It was something I was really excited about working toward getting,” he said. “I was focusing on making sure my life outside of golf lives up to the standards they have there: keeping the grades up and doing stuff in the community.”
He and a high school teammate got a real surprise. Moody and Willy Yeh “tied” and were both recipients.
“For both of us to get it is really cool,” Moody said. “Willy kicks my butt in the classroom. He’s probably the smartest kid I’ve ever met.”
Bowie had just stepped off a golf course in Seattle when she got the call telling her that she had earned the scholarship.
“It made me so happy,” Bowie said. “I was just so proud of myself and so thankful for the opportunity. Just a really good day.”
Since then, the recipients have taken full advantage, honing their skills, playing the game they love, at the finest of facilities.