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A cool head prevails

Recent La Grande High School graduate Jake Girard tees it off during a high school meet this past year. Girard will be competing for Southwestern Oregon Community College this fall after accepting a scholarship this summer.
Recent La Grande High School graduate Jake Girard tees it off during a high school meet this past year. Girard will be competing for Southwestern Oregon Community College this fall after accepting a scholarship this summer.

Channeling emotions leads to success for Girard 

Over the course of Jake Girard’s recently completed high school golf career, patience has been his biggest virtue.

After going through issues with his temper early on, some words of wisdom from his head coach, Ron Evans, helped smooth out the La Grande High School graduate’s mental approach. His new attitude led to a positive finish to his Tiger career and ensured his career didn’t end at his final state meet.

Girard recently accepted a scholarship to compete at Southwestern Oregon Community College in Coos Bay. Girard felt his chance to play collegiately seemingly came out of nowhere.

“At the beginning of the year (Southwest Oregon head coach Ray Fabien) sent something to Ron because he knew La Grande had a really successful program,” Girard said. “We had been in touch since then, and Ray contacted me a couple of weeks ago and made an offer. This was just an opportunity that kind of popped up.”

The offer came as a surprise Girard never envisioned a year or two ago.

“To be honest with you, I never thought I was good enough,” he said. “I had originally wanted to go to Northern Idaho College, but my mom made me email him back the first time.” 

In spite of the surprise, Girard genuinely loves hitting the links. Girard said he’s been golfing pretty much his whole life, but baseball was another sport that occupied his time.

“I was always into baseball,” he said. “Then one of my friends started golfing and he wanted to get me on the team with him. So I decided to go out and try it, and after my eighth grade year I started getting serious about it.”

The ensuing years culminated with Girard enjoying a solid senior year at La Grande. In the Class 4A state golf tournament held at the Ridge Course at Eagle Crest Resort in Redmond, Girard capped off his career with rounds of 82 and 81 strokes, which placed him in a tie for 20th. He was the lone Tiger to qualify for the state meet, but still felt like the season was a success with him as the leader for an inexperienced squad.

“Districts could have gone a lot better, but as a team I thought we did really well,” Girard said. “We were really young, and the course was pretty hard. Honestly I was really glad with how some of the kids played.”

Girard was looked at as the leader of the team by the younger players, but few could have predicted him playing the elder statesman role at the start of his freshman year. Golf, like many sports, is a mental game, and early on Girard would be the first to admit that his emotions got the better of him.

He would let his anger over missed shots and chances get the better of him, and it affected the rest of his round. It was his coach, Evans, who showed him how to settle down.

“We sat down at the beginning of my sophomore year and we went through my expectations,” Girard said. “Ron gave me a book on controlling the mental part of the game. I still had moments where I would be losing it, but Ron was always there to talk me down on the course. Without him, I feel like I wouldn’t have grown as a golfer. He pushed me and he was always there for me.”

Girard learned how to be patient and accept what every golfer must come to terms with: mistakes are inevitable, but its how he reacts to them that dictates the next hole. By the end of his high school days, it would have been more noteworthy to see him get upset, as his calm demeanor helped him maximize his potential.

That led to his college opportunity that he will embark on this fall in Coos Bay. With his newfound mindset, the coastal city fits him perfectly.

“When I went there and visited everyone was a lot more relaxed than here,” he said. “It’s right on the beach — no one was in a hurry. It’s also nice because (the population) is only a couple thousand more than La Grande, so it will be easy to get used to.”

Girard will be studying his two years at Southwestern to be an Emergency Medical Technician, then transferring to a university to get his paramedic degree. He hopes to waste little time playing for the Lakers.

For the full story, see Wednesday's issue of The Observer


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