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March 13, 2011

THE DALLES WAHTONKA girls golf team plays the role of wild card this season in a wide-open Columbia River Conference field. Led by No. 1 golfer Emily Cyphers and a slew of underclassmen, the future is promising. Mark B. Gibson photo

Unproven Tribe golfers tuned up, in

TDW girls coach Dan Downend says young squad has solid potential

By Ray Rodriguez
The Chronicle

     In recent years, The Dalles Wahtonka girls golf team hasn’t usually been one of the first teams mentioned in a conversation about the top groups in the Intermountain Conference, or as is the case in 2011, the Columbia River Conference.
     If the Eagle Indians have any say about it this season, there is a good chance that could change – granted if all the cards fall into place.
     “We’re very excited about the season,” TDW coach Dan Downend said in a phone interview. “We have some good talent at the top and our depth is pretty good with young, talented golfers. We’re optimistic.”
     While a conference title is still a long shot for TDW with perennial powers like Hermiston and Pendleton always in the mix, finishing in the top half of the conference is certainly within the realm of possibility for the Tribe.
     “Our goal is to finish in the top-2 in the league,” Downend said. “I think that’s something we can do.”
     Leading the way for TDW are Emily Cyphers and Carly Lowe.
     Both showed a stream of progression a year ago with Cyphers making headway with placings in the majority of her events. Those two, along with Cassie Dodd, form a trio that will be leaned upon to shoot up the charts.
     “They all really compliment each other,” Downend said. “We need them to play well if we intend to meet our goals.”
     Downend is just as excited about the younger group as he is about the top three.
For the first time in a while, the Eagle Indians feel like they have enough depth to challenge each week.
     In tempering his enthusiasm, Downend said he uses a lot of patience in working with this young team, hoping that the tender-loving-care approach breeds success.
     “We still have a lot of work to do. It is hard especially with the inexperienced girls because you don’t know what to expect,” Downend said. “A lot of it depends on how they handle the pressures of playing against some other teams in tournaments on courses they have never played on before. It will take some time to sharpen the little things in order to produce a refined golfer.”
     Jessica Riggs, Malia Larsen, Miranda Schell, Megan Ford, Ellen Miller, Katelyn Kohl and Ashley Kumm make up the rest of the roster, as they vie for the two open spots for tournament action.
     “All of those players have a chance to shine. Right now, our focus is on the fundamentals, just like any other sport,” Downend said. “You teach them the basics of the game and review it and have them work on establishing a consistent swing. I hope that it improves from there.”
     In all, TDW is counting 10 on its roster this season, but Downend said the departure of some players he was expecting to come out, puts the onus on an untested freshman or sophomore to simmer in the pressure cooker.
     “We’ve had some decent numbers before, but it always seems like players dropout as the season goes on or even before the season starts,” Downend said. “This group seems different. They have a lot of potential and they are really dedicated players.”
     TDW hosts its annual Eagle Indian Invite starting at 10 a.m. Tuesday at The Dalles Country Club.
     Seven teams are expected to participate with CRC foes Hermiston, Pendleton and Hood River as just some of the teams attending.

     Sports Editor Ray Rodriguez can be reached at (541) 506-4618 or email RRodriguez (at) thedalleschronicle.com.



 
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Serving Wasco and Sherman counties in Oregon, and Klickitat county in Washington USA