McNary's Colby Sullivan will play in the High School Golf National Invitational in North Carolina next month.
McNary's Colby Sullivan will play in the High School Golf National Invitational in North Carolina next month.

Colby Sullivan made a name for himself as a freshman golfer in Virginia, where he was honored as the 1A player of the year in 2020.

But when his father, Chip, took over as the general manager at McNary Golf Club in Keizer last year, Colby knew he would have to start over as the new kid in school as a sophomore.

So before he ever stepped foot in McNary High School, he began calling members of the golf team, working to establish connections with them, on and off the course.

“He rallied the kids up,” Celtics coach Brad Lomax said. “Initially, the kids were really intimidated because they heard how great he was, but it's easy to play with him. He's just an easygoing guy who wants to have a good time, looking to build camaraderie.”

Sullivan began to make his presence felt on Oregon golf courses last summer, when he won the Central Willamette Junior Championship and the OGA Tournament of Champions for ages 14-15.

He had an impact on McNary during his three tournaments this season. He won two events and tied for first place in the other, losing in a playoff to Oregon State-bound Brandon Eyre of West Salem. He said the developing rapport with his team has been integral in his success.

“The group of people that I'm around has just been really impactful on the way I've been playing. So I really appreciate them,” he said. “When I first moved out here, I didn't know many people. They're helping me meet people. Just being around them has made me feel better.”

Lomax has seen how Sullivan has helped elevate teammates such as freshman Elijah Clendening and junior Jack Garro, the Celtics' No. 2 player.

“Colby brings a different level of excellence to what we do,” Lomax said. “It's higher expectations for some of the kids. Elijah is just stuck to Colby. They're playing all the time, before practice, after practice. Jack has liked having someone to compete with and someone to play off of.”

Sullivan opened the high school season by shooting a one-over 73 to tie Eyre in a tournament against Salem-Keizer School District teams at McNary Golf Club. It was the first time he had played against Eyre, who placed fifth in the 6A tournament as a sophomore.

“He was pretty stoked to be playing against a kid who's committed to Oregon State,” Lomax said. “They had a gallery following them around. It was pretty exciting golf. Both of them are so competitive. Colby had asked if he could play a playoff hole, and Brandon agreed. They just kind of went off by themselves. It was so cool.”

Sullivan embraced the challenge.

“It really fires you up because not every day you get to go play with a D-I commit,” Sullivan said. “Being around people that are better just helps me for the tournaments I have coming up.”

In his next tournament, Sullivan won with a three-under 69 at Cross Creek Golf Course, going four-under on the back nine. He finished the season Monday by shooting a one-over 72 at Trysting Tree Golf Club for a three-stroke win in a tournament that featured Salem-Keizer and 5A Mid-Willamette Conference teams.

Sullivan is gearing up to play in the High School Golf National Invitational June 28-30 at Pinehurst Resort, N.C., a 54-hole event that will have 324 of the nation's best high school players. He qualified for the tournament while living in Virginia.

“There's no one from Oregon that was able to qualify for this tournament, so I'm the only one representing Oregon, which I think is really cool,” Sullivan said. “I'm really excited to go to North Carolina and represent McNary.”

How is Sullivan adapting to life in Oregon?

“I'm loving it.” he said. “I love the McNary community. I've having a great time. The golf courses out here are so much fun. I love the scenery. I love going on trips. You can't compare that to Virginia. It's awesome. I love going over to Bend and Sunriver.”

4A favorite

Marist Catholic senior Nick Watts, the 4A champion in 2019, will be among those competing in the season-ending 4A Showcase tournament Tuesday at Trysting Tree.

Watts, who has signed with San Jose State, was part of championship teams in 5A in 2018 and 4A in 2019. He was the Oregon Junior Amateur champion in 2019 and runner-up in 2020.

Watts has won all seven of his tourmaments this season. He shot a three-under 69 to win the Special District 2 tournament last week at Tokatee Golf Club.

Individuals and teams qualified for the 4A Showcase through district tournaments last week.

5A tournament

Thurston will play host to a tournament for the best 5A boys and girls players and teams Wednesday at Pine Ridge Golf Club in Springfield.

Thurston coach Nathan Wiedenmann said he invited each 5A district to send its top three or four teams, and top four to six individuals not on those teams, to play in the tournament. Organizers will award the top four teams and top 10 individuals at the event, which is not sanctioned by the OSAA.

Wiedenmann credited Pine Ridge owner Ron Perkins for his cooperation in hosting the tournament, which will include 148 boys and girls.

"He generously donated his golf course to us for the day at no charge to the schools or the student-athletes," Wiedenmann said. "This allows us to be generous with the participation. Honestly, I did not think we would have 148 student-athletes participate."

New role

Summit senior Sophie Dalfonsi, who finished fourth in the 6A tournament in 2019, has assumed the role of an assistant coach with the Storm this season.

Dalfonsi, who has signed with Georgetown, played in only one tournament this season – winning by 11 strokes Wednesday at Bend Golf Club – as she shifted her focus to coaching teammates.

“It’s been fun,” she told the Bend Bulletin. “I like coaching because I like helping players, helping them see what they can do and giving them pointers from what I have experienced during my junior golf career.

“Coaching allows you to step back and see what you can improve on. Because I’m not just coaching them, I’m coaching myself at the same time. I’d say it has helped my mental game, and that tends to be an issue of mine.”