By Ben • Ben Schorzman • 

Brooker starting fresh with almost entirely new golf team

McMinnville boys golf coach Chris Brooker.
McMinnville boys golf coach Chris Brooker.

Pacific Conference champion Ryan Aker. Gone.

Coach Jas Carpenter. Gone.

The McMinnville boys golf team is in major rebuilding mode with almost an entirely new lineup and a new coach in Chris Brooker. The starting varsity lineup, besides Hunter Hoyt-Franck, is gone.

“Trying to get them to groove into a swing,” Brooker said of his 10 golfers. “They’re going to have to hit a lot of golf balls.”

A few of the 10 played last year on the junior varsity squad, but the Grizzlies lack tournament and match-play experience. Brooker said he’s been trying to fix during the first two weeks of practice.

“We’re trying to get them into a competitive mode now,” Brooker said. “Every time they’re out here, we want them treating it like a tournament. They’re trading scorecards; they’re calling fouls on one another and violations. Trying to get practices a little bit more like tournaments.”

With a mixed group of players who have played golf before and relative new inductees, Brooker said he’s been setting up practices to make them challenging for everyone. After a warm up on the driving range at Michelbook Country Club, Brooker sets up a challenge drill that everyone must complete before they get out onto the course.

“They have to stay there until they complete it,” Brooker said. “It’s a bunker shot, it’s a chip shot, flop shot. It’s putting four tees on the green and saying you have to put three of your four balls between them from this spot. And everyone has to do it before you move on. It’s not a free pass. Trying to get the competitive juices going in them.”

It’s always tough trying to simulate the conditions of a tournament, but Brooker said the more golf his team can play, the more comfortable they will be on tournament days.

“The varsity guys have been playing nine every day,” he said. “They’ve been playing a lot of golf.”

Brooker said he’s been getting used to the ins-and-outs of coaching at the high school level. He has four kids that he coached in the parks and recs leagues for baseball and soccer when they were growing up, but this is his first foray into more organized levels.

One challenge he’s had to face with the team is a net that spans the driving range at Michelbook about 30 feet from the mats. The net is supposed to stop balls in flight before they go too far out and plug in the muddy ground during the winter. It’s a permanent feature on the range until the ground hardens out.

The net is kind of a new thing for us. Cost cutting measure for Michelbook. They lose about 2,000 balls a year,” Brooker said. “In a perfect world, I’d like to see the ball fly all the way out, so we’ll have to play some more and practice a bit less just purely so I can watch the ball. I can see it in the first 35 feet, but I don’t know if it’s going to be tailing off or slicing or how it’s really going to fly.”

The Grizzlies start the season at 10 a.m. Monday at the Tualatin Country Club for a Pacific Conference match.

Brooker, who works in accounting at the Willamette Valley Medical Center, graduated from Benson, but he was born in McMinnville. He was a wildcard hire for Mac athletic director Mark Hinthorn, but he said he is looking forward to building a program in town.

“It’s tremendously exciting,” Brooker said.

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