Prep girls golf: Golf is a tandem sport at Fort Vancouver

Fort's Standard has one teammate, but lofty goals

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

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Bridget Standard had three teammates last season with the Fort Vancouver golf program.

Not a lot, but more than she has this season.

In 2014, it’s Standard and Nerfy “Kiki” Rodriguez representing the Trappers, enduring the rain and wind some days, celebrating the sun on other days.

Not that one needs a full team to excel in an individual sport.

Standard, as a freshman, finished third in the Class 3A district tournament last year, then made the cut and finished in the top 20 at the state tournament.

It was a fine start to her high school career.

Standard, a homeschool student, has set a number of goals centered around her favorite sport. She also wishes more girls would play the game, but she understands it is not for everyone.

It is frustrating, she said, that Fort Vancouver has to forfeit every match when total strokes are counted for a team score. But as a longtime junior golfer, competing for herself is the norm

“I’m just used to being my own player. It hasn’t really affected me,” she said. “I haven’t had it, so I don’t really miss it.”

There is a benefit to Fort’s two-person team, too.

“I get a lot of chances to know her better on a personal level,” Standard said of Rodriguez.

Fort is not the only girls golf program playing with low numbers. Heritage and Evergreen, Class 4A programs, also do not field full varsity squads this spring. Same with Class 3A Hudson’s Bay.

Players could ask their friends if they want to try a new sport, but Standard said it has been her experience that just not enough are interested.

“I don’t know many who want to play golf. I’m surprised when I see girls playing golf because it is such a hard sport,” Standard said.

It is not easy. It is not supposed to be easy.

The difficulty, she said, can lead to fewer players. Those who do try, if they don’t catch the bug right away, well ...

Every sport has its challenges. The best athletes in individual sports usually hone their skills year round. Newcomers to golf need time and coaching. They also must have a passion to improve.

Rodriguez is proof that one does not have to be a star to love the sport. A junior, her goal is simply to make the cut at the district tournament, either this year or next year. Her best score on a nine-hole match this season is a 57.

“Some days I can do really, really good. Some days I can do really, really bad,” Rodriguez said. “The bad days make me want to come back and get better. I’m not super good at it, but I might as well keep trying.”

Fort Vancouver coach Mike Witkowski said that is the perfect attitude for a golfer.

Unfortunately for golf, there are not enough with that philosophy.

Golf might be the most difficult high school individual sport to attract newcomers. A first-year athlete in high school tennis, for example, might lose in straight sets, but the match will be over in 30 to 45 minutes. A tennis player also is not outside during inclement weather.

A struggling golfer, on the other hand, might take more than two-and-a-half hours on the course for a nine-hole match. In the rain. In the wind. It can be miserable.

It takes a special mindset to overcome those obstacles.

Standard has always had that ambition. She started taking lessons at the age of 8, and quickly began competing in tournaments. She has participated in the First Tee program.

“There was just something about golf,” she said.

Older brother Trent, a junior for Fort, also is accomplished in the sport, so it became a family endeavor.

For high school girls golf, it is a very small Trappers family. Perhaps if Bridget accomplishes her goals this spring, representing Fort, it might lead future Trappers to take up the game.

“I’d like to place first in district,” she said. “At state, I’d love to be in the top 10. Those are two things I will be able to accomplish.”

Those are just her objectives this year. She has plenty more in the years to come. Golf is very much in her life’s plan.

“I’d love to play on a tour for a bit, then start a golf school and do some coaching,” Standard said. “I like helping people with their golf swings.”

Who knows? One day, Bridget Standard might be entice more girls out for golf, inspiring them with her play, then teaching them the ways of the game.