Terry Cavender was tired of athletes starting a journey from Clark County. He wanted this region to become a destination, the destination.
“When you’re in Southwest Washington, you travel to a state tournament somewhere. Nothing’s happening in Vancouver,” said the former athletic director at Camas High School. “We wanted to bring something to our corner of the state.”
Cavender had the idea, and the Vancouver USA Regional Sports Commission had the power make it happen.
After months of working with local courses, local hotels, and a number of local golf enthusiasts, Southwest Washington is hosting four state golf tournaments this week.
Many of the competitors will be playing practice rounds today. The tournament begins Tuesday with 80 in each field. The top 40 and ties will make the cut and play Wednesday’s final round. Individual and team champions will be crowned.
The Class 4A boys tournament will be held at Camas Meadows. The 3A boys are headed to Ridgefield at Tri-Mountain Golf Course. The 4A girls will be on a private course at Club Green Meadows. And the 3A girls will be in Woodland at Lewis River Golf Course.
If fans cannot make it this week, there is always next year. The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association has granted the courses a two-year cycle.
“It’s very, very exciting. The courses are hopping. They’re very excited,” said Rosemary Cooke of the sports commission. “This community is very sports minded. We have so many great community members plus the venues here. This was a natural one to really go after.”
Cooke said when the WIAA made its decision last spring, it was one of the first “gets” by the commission, which was officially formed in January 2012 as a branch of the Vancouver USA Regional Tourism Office.
Cooke and Cavender said most of the credit should go to Ashley Shimer of the commission. Shimer was unavailable to comment for this story.
“Ashley was a big part of it,” Cavender said. “She worked with the hotels. She met with the pros from all the courses. She got every thing in place. Ashley put a wonderful package together and submitted it to the WIAA.”
This week will mark the first time state golf has been in Clark County since Tri-Mountain and The Cedars hosted tournaments in 1998. The following year, Vancouver was home to several spring sports state championships as part of what was then called Spring Fest. Since then, Clark County has hosted state tennis on occasion and Camas was home to the Class 4A, 3A, and 2A soccer final four in 2003 and 2004. But in terms of number of athletes, schools and tournaments at the same time, this week marks the largest WIAA presence in Southwest Washington in 14 years.
Interestingly, Cavender will not be in the area to watch his idea come to reality. He resigned from Camas to become the athletic director at Franklin Pierce High School in Tacoma.
“We thought we had some wonderful courses and we might be able to host state events,” Cavender said. “I was just interested in bringing it down for the community and for the kids.”
If he were still in town, he said he would probably be overseeing at least one of the tournaments. Instead, Leta Meyer, the athletic director at Heritage, and Dana Selby, the AD at Columbia River, are teaming up to take charge of the 4A and 3A events, respectively.
“It’s been a team effort from the beginning,” said Meyer, also a member of the WIAA’s executive board. “It wasn’t something I wanted to take on by myself. I knew the best people to ask, and they were more than willing to help.”
Retiree and long-time coach Janet Elliott is heading up the 3A girls tournament. Former Skyview and Hudson’s Bay athletic director Jeanne Shults will take care of the 4A boys tourney. Battle Ground’s athletic director and standout golfer Karla Kalian will be at the 4A girls. And Selby and Dave Bennett of Columbia River, a former coach, will be with the 3A boys.
That’s more than 100 years of athletic management/coaching experience.
“I’m extremely happy that it’s here, and we’ve all been working very, very hard,” Meyer said. “We really had a good support group. It’s a community effort.”
She credited Elliott for asking all of her golf friends to help out. Just about everyone said yes.
Meyer showed a list of dozens of volunteers. She has people to help with the scorekeeping, others to assist with crowd control.
“We feel like we’re ready,” Meyer said.
Meyer is not just an AD and former coach. She, too, is a golfer. She has played every course that is hosting state this week.
“Vancouver is big, but we’re really not,” she said. “We’re a tight group. This is huge for our community. It’s been a long time since we had a state golf tournament, let alone four of them.”
For Meyer, Tuesday’s opening round is extra special.
“What greater way to celebrate my birthday than to host state golf tournaments in Vancouver,” she said. “Everybody is extremely excited.”
When the first groups tee off at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, Cavender’s dream will come true.
Southwest Washington is a destination, the last stop for Class 4A and 3A high school golf this school year.