At 5-foot-8, Corvallis junior Cole Rueck doesn't strike an imposing figure on the golf course.
“You look at him, you're not going to be overly impressed,” Spartans coach Mark Kalmar said.
But Rueck – the son of Oregon State women's basketball coach Scott Rueck -- is quickly becoming a dominant force on the links. He has won all four of his tournaments this season, shooting a combined 17-under par.
Rueck has made dramatic improvement from his freshman season, when he finished 10th in the 5A championships.
“He's playing pretty close to mistake-free golf,” Kalmar said. “A lot of high school golfers can string a low round here or there, but to string as many low rounds together as he has, it's really impressive to watch.”
Rueck opened the season by shooting a four-under 68 at OGA Golf Course in Woodburn. He followed that with a one-under 71 at Spring Hill Golf Club in Albany, a five-under 66 at Trysting Tree Golf Course in Corvallis and a seven-under 64 at Mallard Creek Golf Course in Lebanon. He is 12-under in his last 27 holes.
“He's a unique talent,” Kalmar said. “He's got super-soft hands around the green. He has a different gear that most don't have.”
Kalmar said that Rueck's physical maturation in the last two years is a big factor in his improvement. Rueck, who works with a personal trainer and swing coach, bombed a couple drives about 320 yards in his last tournament, according to Kalmar.
“He can make the most of his size,” Kalmar said. “He's taking the game very seriously, as far as investing the time. You can tell he really enjoys it. When I see him out on the course, he's taking in a lot of data points, when others may not be. He absorbs everything and uses it to his advantage.”
Rueck is able to get plenty of practice from living across the street from the course at The Corvallis Club. He also plays on the Future Champions Golf Tour, a worldwide junior circuit.
Kalmar sees a bit of Scott Rueck in the way Cole competes.
“His dad is so even-keeled and focused on the next thing in the game,” Kalmar said. “It's such a valuable trait. Cole has the same demeanor when he plays that nothing really rattles him. He's very cool, calm. And as a leader of those around him, that kind of ripples to others.”
Rueck will get a chance to go up against the best players in 5A at a season-ending showcase event May 19 at Pine Ridge Golf Club in Springfield. The 18-hole tournament, hosted by Thurston High School, will invite the top three teams from each 5A district as well as the top three individuals not on qualifying teams.
For Rueck to play in the 5A showcase, Corvallis will need to qualify at its district tournament without him. He has opted to forgo district to play in the local US Open qualifier the same day.
St. Mary's of Medford senior Baylee Hammericksen, the two-time 4A/3A/2A/1A state champion, set a course record Wednesday by shooting eight-under 64 at Centennial Golf Club in Medford.
It was a personal-best round for the Oregon-bound Hammericksen, improving on the 65 she shot as a sophomore at Running Y Ranch Resort in Klamath Falls.
Hammericksen scored an eagle on her fourth hole – the 220-yard, par-4 No. 13 – and added six birdies to beat the previous course record by one stroke. One of her birdies came on a 40-foot putt.
“I got that eagle and then right after that it was just bam, bam, bam, bam,” Hammericksen told the Medford Mail-Tribune. “That was kind of the point where it clicked and everything started to come together from there.”
Hammericksen has won every tournament she has entered this season. Also, she and her junior sister, Riley, shot a 16-under 56 in a two-person scramble at Stone Ridge Golf Club in Eagle Point on April 19.
St. Mary's coach Kevin Klabunde said Baylee has added power to her game since her sophomore season, when she set a 4A/3A/2A/1A tournament record by shooting a five-under 139. She is hitting her drives about 250 yards.
“Her sister is taller and always was longer off the tee,” Klabunde said. “Baylee pretty much decided if she was going to be competitive at the collegiate level, she needed to increase her length. She really worked at getting stronger and hitting the tee shot farther. Now she's longer than her sister.”
St. Mary's won four consecutive small-school titles from 2016 to 2019 and was in prime position to add to that streak the last two seasons.
“I'm confident we would've won it last year, and I'm pretty confident we would've won it this year,” Klabunde said. “It's really a drag.”
St. Mary's will play in a 4A/3A/2A/1A regional tournament for southern Oregon schools May 10 and 11 at Centennial and Rogue Valley Country Club.
The top two teams, and top five individuals not on qualifying teams, will play in the Southern Oregon High School Championships May 19, with the girls at Eagle Point Golf Club and the boys at Running Y.
Bulldogs top MWC
Depth and consistency have been keys to West Albany's boys team winning four consecutive 5A Mid-Willamette Conference tournaments.
The Bulldogs, who placed third in the 5A tournament in 2019, posted their latest win Monday by scoring a season-low 302 at Mallard Creek. Brock Nelson (70) led the way, followed by Grant Moen (76), Nick Anderson (77), Trenton Crow (79) and Andrew Liles (79).
The win came one week after they shot 305 at Trysting Tree, led by Crow (74). Three teammates were close behind in Liles (76), Moen (77) and Anderson (78).
“This team is so talented from top to bottom that I never know who is going to be our low scorer,” West Albany coach Matt Boase told the Corvallis Gazette-Times. “It’s nice for the guys because they’re trying to win the tournament but the pressure isn’t overwhelming because there are four other guys who will post a good score.”