Braden Bell’s intent entering the final day of the 4A Special District 4 Tournament was to be mindful of his own play and not those around him.
“I focused on playing against myself and the course and focused less on playing against my competitors,” the La Grande Tigers senior said. “They were more focused on beating me. I was more worried about how I could play.”
It worked, as Bell’s final-round score of 81 lifted him to an individual district title as the Tigers boys golf team took first at the district tournament Monday and Tuesday in La Grande.
Bell’s final round gave him a two-day score of 166, one stroke better than Baker’s Caden Long, who had an overall score of 167 after a final round of 84.
“I think he relaxed a little more and didn’t think he had to hang with Caden,” La Grande head coach Ron Evans said. “He could relax and play golf. He played really well today. He hit some good shots and made some putts.”
Long had a two-stroke lead over Bell entering the final round, but the Tiger senior, in the final prep round on his home course, shot the low round of the tournament to edge the defending two-time district champion.
“It was really cool to go out my senior year and win individually and as a team,” Bell said. “I’m ecstatic right now to be able to pull it off after being behind the first day.”
Bell’s score helped La Grande reach the team title with a two-day score of 707, which included a round of 349 Monday and a score of 358 Tuesday.
“(It was) a really good district. I’m so happy that everything went so well,” Evans said. “It was nice to see them show their ability.”
Baker, which finished second as a team, had a score of 736 — 370 Monday and 366 Tuesday.
La Grande had three additional top-five finishes and a fourth top-10 finish on its way to the top spot in the district. Freshman Tristen Shepherd posted a two-day score of 177, including an opening round of 87 and a second-day score of 90, to place fourth overall. Junior Cruz
Gallegos finished one stroke behind Shepherd in fifth with 178, rebounding from a 93 on Monday to shoot 85 on Tuesday.
Bradon McCall rounded out the top four on La Grande with a total of 186. The senior opened strong with a round of 84 to lead the team — and sit in second overall — after Monday, then followed the effort with a score of 102 Tuesday.
“The team has made huge improvements over the course of the year. It’s been fun to watch them grow,” Bell said.
Anton Evans rounded out the Tigers’ top five by shoot 208, posting scores of 104 both days.
The Tigers wrap up the season Monday and Tuesday at the Class 4A state championship tournament in Creswell.
“I think it’s going to be huge,” Ron Evans said of what the district title will do for team morale headed to state. “They didn’t play well down there (at the last tournament in Creswell) and still shot a 385. I think they’re going to have a lot of confidence going down there again.”