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2-sport standout William Koch of La Salle Prep edges Corvallis' Cole Rueck for Oregon 5A boys golf crown; Rueck, Spartans are top team

Koch finished at 1-over 143 and became the Falcons’ first individual champion since Bill Hart in 1991.

By René Ferrán 

Growing up, William Koch always considered himself a baseball player first and a golfer second. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in the spring of 2020, however, the La Salle Prep junior decided to become more serious about his golf game.

About a 14-handicap at that time, golf went from a sidelight to his passion.

On Tuesday, Koch turned that passion into a state championship at the OSAA Class 5A boys golf tournament at Trysting Tree Golf Club in Corvallis. He fired a 2-over-par 73 early in the day, then had to survive about an hour wait before Cole Rueck’s second shot at the finishing hole came up just short of the green, officially sealing Koch’s two-stroke victory.

“I’m kind of overwhelmed right now,” said Koch, who finished at 1-over 143 and became the Falcons’ first individual champion since Bill Hart in 1991. “There’s nothing I’ve wanted more throughout my high school career, so it gives me a lot of happiness to be able to say that with the help of my team, my coaches, I’ve become a state champion.”

William Koch La Salle Prep boys golf Rene Ferran 2

Rueck’s second-place finish paced Corvallis to the team title, pulling away over the back nine to a 21-shot victory over Crater for the program’s first championship since it won back-to-back titles in 2010-11.

“These guys just really care about each other,” coach Mark Kalmar said. “They care for the game and making special memories, and fortunately, they were able to hang on and play some good golf today.”

Rueck, the son of Oregon State women’s basketball coach Scott Rueck and a Boise State signee, entered the day holding a one-shot lead over Koch, but he couldn’t overcome three double-bogeys in a seven-hole stretch.

Koch is also a pitcher for the La Salle Prep baseball team, and it was at a game a month ago that he dislocated his shoulder sliding back into a base. He spent the past month rehabbing the injury, returning for the Falcons’ final league match before heading to state.

“I was nervous, because this is something I’ve always wanted, and if I’d had to miss it, it would have hurt a bit,” Koch said.

Koch got off to a rocky start to his final round, bogeying three of his first six holes to drop three shots behind Rueck.

A birdie on the par-4 No. 7 helped right the ship, and he took advantage of the par-5s on the back nine, birdieing each, to get back to 1-under for the tournament.

William Koch La Salle Prep boys golf Rene Ferran

Back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 17 and 18 shook him, but he took comfort in not putting up a big number all tournament.

“I had no doubles on the card either day, and I avoided big mistakes,” Koch said. “That’s what I needed to do in the end.”

Just as Koch closed his round by tapping in for bogey, Rueck pulled out his driver from 260 yards out on the fairway of the par-5 No. 14 and let it rip.

The ball settled three feet from a pin tucked on the upper shelf, and he made the eagle putt to draw even with Koch at 1-over.

“That’s gotta be one of my best shots ever,” Rueck said. “I was on kind of an upslope, so I knew I could get the ball over the trees. Once I saw it kick off the hill and knew it was going to be really close, that was really cool.”

With the adrenaline still coursing, Rueck took out driver again on the 15th tee and let it rip. The ball hooked left out of bounds, and he ended up double-bogeying the hole.

“Just a poor swing and hooked it,” he said. “I hadn’t been driving it well all day. Thinking back, I probably should have just aimed well right, because I’ve got the entire world to the right there.”

He then missed an 8-foot birdie putt after laying up on the par-5 No. 16 and saw a birdie try on the par-3 No. 17 just slide past the hole, ending his title chances.

Instead, he took comfort in sharing the team title with four other seniors, including third-place finisher Jaxon Wallis (8-over 150).

Corvallis boys golf Rene Ferran

“I gave myself chances at the end to tie, but he (Koch) played a great round,” Rueck said. “And I was happy to get the team title.”

Koch now returns to the diamond to help the Falcons close the regular season this week. They are fourth in the Northwest Oregon Conference standings and would qualify for the 5A baseball playoffs starting next Wednesday with a win in either of their final two games against Milwaukie. 

“It’s been tough with both being in the same season,” said Koch, who has been limited to relief pitching duties since his injury. “But I’m really glad I got to play both. Baseball team, that’s my boys, and I’m glad we’ll get the chance to make a run at state.”