Water rushes across the rocks in a nearby creek. A hawk screeches from its perch above a putting green. A titanium driver’s piercing plunk reverberates through the tree-lined fairway. As Owen and Eli Huntington trudge around a muddy Camas Meadows Golf Course, conversation is minimal.
The Papermaker golfers are “in the zone,” coach Ed Givens says. From the first swing of the afternoon until the final putt sinks on the ninth hole during a practice last week, there is a singular goal from each of them: How can I get this white ball into that hole in as few strokes as possible?
“It’s absolute tunnel vision,” Givens said.
That laser focus is perhaps one of the biggest reasons the Huntington brothers — Owen, a senior, and Eli, a sophomore — have become the latest in a successful line of Camas golfers.
Owen finished fifth at state his freshman year and 10th as a sophomore. The two were set to lead a state championship charge last spring before sports were abruptly halted.
After a year of uncertainty about whether they could compete as teammates again, the Huntington brothers are back for a final run together — albeit, again without a state championship on the line.
“It’s definitely disappointing but we’ll take what we can get,” said Eli, who now boasts a curly mane of blonde locks. He hasn’t had a haircut in almost a year.
Owen was 10 and Eli was 8 when their father, Brad, got them into golf.
They started with countless hours on the driving range before making the transition to family outings on the course. Soon they were competing in junior tournaments and finishing well.
“They got hooked on it and became passionate,” Brad Huntington said. “They were eager to practice and put in the hours.”
Owen, with the benefit of age and physical maturity, started off as the better golfer. Similar to how he gets on the golf course, he commits himself to anything he does.
During the pandemic, he was relentless in trying to serve his community and help other schools amid ever-changing COVID-19 protocols.
He loves to run by Lacamas Lake, taking long-distance jaunts up to five times a week. But golf is where he always excelled.
“If someone else wants to tell me I’m good, that’s fine. But I just kept setting goals for myself individually and kept after it,” Owen said.
Younger brother Eli followed suit. The game came more naturally to him and as he grew into his body and put in the hours, he became on par with Owen.
Now, the two are near equals, flip-flopping who wins and loses each round. Eli in the last year — or two, if you ask him — has started out-driving the more consistent and accurate Owen.
“It was always my goal to beat him,” Eli said. “He would consistently beat me when we were younger so it was always fun to have that on the table during a round.”
While the two say they’re not that competitive with each other — “it’s not like we’re stepping on each other’s throats or anything,” Owen said — others notice the desire they have to top the other.
“They’re competitive about everything,” Givens said. “I don’t care if it’s eating chicken or playing golf.”
That spirit is rooted in respect. Over the last several years, their respect for each other has grown immensely, Owen said. The two work out together at their home gym and speak highly of each other’s games.
Perhaps bigger than their talents on the course, though, is how they are viewed off it. Their character is the first thing mentioned by competitors and coaches. The two were named captains this season; Owen has been one since his freshman year.
Owen, who has pursued the possibility of entering a military academy after high school, also received a congressional nomination to the United States Naval Academy by 3rd District Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground.
“Both their mother and I are very humbled about the general perception of them,” Brad Huntington said. “It’s a credit to their mom, and it’s a credit to them for owning their reputation and continuing to build on it. It’s a huge source of pride.”
As a result of their talent, dedication and character, the Huntington brothers have made a lasting impact on the Papermaker program. Givens has coached a lot of great golfers; Eli and Owen are among the best.
“They’re just really successful kids,” Givens said. “They raise the level for everybody.”