RICHLAND - He's not a strapping youngster to look at, kind of spindly actually, but freshman Chandler Luther is coming into his own as a starter on this year's Sunnyside High School boys golf team.
Luther paved the way for the Grizzly linksters yesterday at the Columbia Basin Big Nine League opener, staged at Richland's Horn Rapids Golf Course, a desert, target-style track that can quickly chew up a golfer's game.
The underclassman posted a team-low 94 on the par-72 course for Sunnyside. Playing fairly consistently on the two nines, Luther shot a bogey-filled 45 on the front side, ballooning slightly after the clubhouse turn to a 49.
Luther's highlight came on the par-3, 176-yard, downhill 17th hole, knocking down a birdie to keep his back nine score one stroke away from falling into the 50's.
SHS Coach Gary Rohde said the Grizzly freshman drives the ball fairly well, although at times struggles with getting off consistent shots from the tee blocks.
"Chandler's chipping and putting is where he's really decent at right now. He works hard at those two parts of the game," said Rohde.
Finishing four shots back of Luther with a 98 was teammate Nathan Espinoza. A junior, the linkster opened with a not-so-glitzy 52 on the front side, but shaved six strokes off that after making the turn to post a fairly solid back nine score of 46.
"Nathan definitely showed some improvement on his final nine holes," said Rohde.
Third in for the Grizzlies was Nick Navarro. The lone senior for Sunnyside, he chugged along the sagebrush-lined course with front and back tallies of 59-61 for a 110 total.
Rounding out the team scoring for Sunnyside was freshman Nathan Meyer, who dramatically sliced 13 strokes off his front nine 66 to a 53 after the clubhouse turn.
"Quite an improvement for Nathan as he went along," said Rohde.
Sunnyside, allowed to enter six golfers in each of the league competitions, took a fifth linkster to Richland yesterday, junior Trey Rice. A Sunnyside Christian High School student who's allowed to play for the Grizzlies because his school doesn't field a golf team, never did get untracked and settled for a 121 (55-66).
Rohde said the Grizzlies should have a sixth golfer available to them by the time the next league match rolls around, that one scheduled for April 5 at Pasco's Sun Willows Golf Course.
Sunnyside's team total yesterday was 421, compared to the meet-low round of 305 posted by the Richland Bombers.
The goal of the Grizzlies during this rebuilding year come season's end, said Rohde, is to be tallying team scores in the 390 range. "That averages out to about each of our golfers shaving about eight strokes off the scores they're shooting now," he said.
The only team that Rohde is aware of that posted a lower score than Sunnyside at yesterday's league opener is the 4A Eisenhower Cadets, who finished 15 strokes back of the Grizzlies with a 434.
Wednesday's medalist at Horn Rapids was Eastmont's Spencer Ellis, who toured the 6,709-yard course with a 1-under-par 71.