Alistair Docherty’s junior season of high school golf concluded with a ho-hum finish at state.
He did not like how he played, so he immediately went to work on his game.
If his senior season of Union High School golf goes the way of his summer, there will be nothing ho-hum about it.
Docherty is coming off the most important victory of his career — a title at the Oregon Junior Amateur. After qualifying in stroke play, Docherty won five match-play contests in the next four days to claim the championship at Reames Golf and Country Club in Klamath Falls.
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PLAYERS TO WATCH
Diego De La Torre, Hockinson; Jared Gomez, Hockinson; Chad Hall, Battle Ground; Nick Huff, Hockinson; Garrett Kooistra, Skyview; Brett Johnson, Ridgefield; Cosmo Peng, Camas; Taylor Smith, Mountain View; Ian Spicer, Union; Trey Udy, Woodland.
Clark County has been a hotbed for boys golf over the past few seasons. The county has produced six state champions in the past six seasons: Hockinson’s Gaston De La Torre at 2A in 2006, 2007 and 2008; Camas' Daniel Snoey in 3A in 2009; Washougal’s Connor O’Neill in 2A in 2010 and Ridgefield’s Brett Johnson at 1A last spring. Johnson returns for his senior season for the Spudders. De La Torre’s younger brother, Diego, joins an already solid Hockinson lineup. Union returns all but one player off a team that went undefeated in the 4A GSHL. The Titans should battle Skyview in league this year. Camas and Mountain View are the top contenders in the 3A GSHL. Hockinson is the team to beat the 2A GSHL, while Ridgefield will battle Ilwaco among 1A teams in the district.
In the final match, he was only ahead when it mattered — at the very end.
“It’s a big tournament. All of the top golfers from Oregon are there, most of them playing at their best,” Docherty said.
The Oregon Junior Amateur was run by the Oregon Golf Association, which includes golfers from Oregon and Southwest Washington.
Docherty said the tournament was a good test on many levels.
“It took a lot of strength and conditioning,” he said. “You’re golfing so much. It was a lot of golf.”
Excellent golf, too.
Docherty said he trailed by two after two holes, caught his opponent at the turn, then fell behind again on the back nine. He tied the match with a birdie on the 18th hole, then birdied the first playoff hole to clinch the title.
“I love match play. If you have one bad hole, instead of going down, say, three strokes, it’s only one hole,” Docherty said. “Mentally, you know you have a fresh start every hole.”
Of course, for the most part, there is no match play in high school golf. That does not mean Docherty cannot take what he learned this summer and put it into play this fall for the Titans, and then the spring at state.
The summer schedule, he said, tested his mental skills.
“In high school (regular-season matches) are only nine holes,” he said. “You have to be focused the whole time. You can’t have a slip up.”
At the same time, he said overcoming that deficit in the championship match at the Oregon Junior Am can have a carry-over effect.
“I feel like high school golf is easier now,” he said. “There is not as much pressure because I’ve played so many big tournaments lately.”
Easier now, huh? Docherty won the Class 4A Greater St. Helens League’s district tournament last fall before finishing 12th at state.
“I still didn’t feel like I played to the best of my ability,” he offered.
As a sophomore, he led the district tournament after 27 holes before faltering and finishing sixth. He still went to state.
He was 12th at district as a freshman, sneaking into the bi-district tournament and then advancing to state.
So, yes, if all goes to plan, Docherty will be a four-time competitor at the state tournament.
“By now I feel we know what each other is thinking before we have a chance to say it,” Union coach Gary Mills said. “He is a very, very good role model for our team. He practices hard, and he has good etiquette on the course. He’s always been a guy the other coaches in our league enjoy talking to.”
The Titans hope this nice guy can keep finishing first. So does he.
“I want to win district again. That’s the main goal,” he said. “I want to play for my team, make sure the team wins league and district. And going into the spring, I really feel I have a chance to compete for a (state) title.”
He already has one a state championship in Oregon — different format and not high school, but still, a state championship.
Now he wants one in Washington.