With a new format for deciding the champion, Ridgeview’s boys golf team is in good position for an Intermountain Conference title.

Behind Isaac Buerger, the 2017 state Class 5A champion who will play for Weber State next year, the Ravens had the top score in the first three tournaments that count toward an Intermountain Conference team title and automatic spot in the Class 5A state tournament. That makes them the favorite heading into the final of the four league events Monday at Meadow Lakes in Prineville.

At the April 22 third league tournament in The Dalles, Buerger shot 73, seven shots ahead of second-place Aiden Telles of The Dalles, to lead the Ravens to a team score of 340, 24 shots ahead of second-place Hood River Valley. That gives Ridgeview 30 league points, 11 over second-place The Dalles.

With the larger Bend schools, which have kept them from the top of the IMC leaderboard the last three seasons, now in Class 6A, the Ravens hope to win the league through the regular season matches. But even if they don’t, they’ll get another chance to qualify for the state tournament at the May 6-7 regional tournament, where the IMC’s second, third and fourth place teams are decided.

“The league matches matter more,” said Ravens coach Ron Buerger, Isaac’s father said of the new setup.

Just off a visit to The Masters in Augusta, Georgia, Isaac Buerger shot a 67, tying his own year-old school record, at the April 17 Pronghorn Invite in Bend, a non-league event. The victory gave him the Central Oregon Classic title, which is played over three rounds at different tournaments, by 12 shots over Lucas Hughes of Summit.

While Isaac Buerger has led the team since his freshman year, his dad said Ridgeview is shooting better as a team than it has in the past. A big reason for that is solid play from junior twins Justin and Parker McMahon.

Ridgeview’s team score of 328 in the Pronghorn tournament was four shots off the school record for a tournament, the coach said.

After Isaac Buerger qualified solo for state his freshman and sophomore seasons, the Ravens made it as a team in 2018, when they finished sixth. Coach Buerger said a top four finish, and spot on the podium, is possible this time.

“It’s not outside the realm of possibility we could do even better than that,” he said.

While coach Buerger held off on picking too high of a finish, he might know more after a state preview practice tournament at Trysting Tree in Corvallis. The course will play host to this year’s state tournament, as it did in 2016, when Isaac finished fifth as a freshman, making a final-round double eagle on the par 5 15th hole in the process.

“Historically, Trysting Tree’s been good to my teams over the years,” Ron Buerger said. “(Isaac’s) probably going to be more comfortable there than most courses in the Valley. It bodes well for the rest of the group too, because it’s not so intimidating off the tee, but you have to be able to putt real well there and handle the subtle slopes and read the greens right. That’s, generally what our teams are pretty good at doing.”

Trysting Tree ranks as one of Isaac’s favorite courses in Oregon, particularly since recent work was completed on it.

“I’ve played it a couple times now, and I think the course is far better,” Isaac said. “It was already a good course beforehand, but I think it’s even better now, so I’m excited to get out there and play it again.”

Isaac Buerger, who finished fifth individually at state in 2018, looks to keep up the pattern of fifth-first finishes at state.

“I feel I’m playing good, I’ve still got a long way to go to get to where I want to be later in the year, but I’ve been improving the parts of my game that I’ve needed to,” he said at an April 19 practice.

Issac said his game is in a better place than it was this time last year.

The last four years of seeing Isaac play have been fun, Ron Buerger said.

“It’s been a treat to have somebody come through our program of that caliber,” he said. “It will take many, many years for the list of records that we’ve set from an individual standpoint — I track all that stuff, the first 25 names on the list are going to be Isaac’s scores and tournaments. That’s a huge impact, that makes a big difference on your team score when you have one individual whose, more often than not, been the low player in the tournament.”

Along with the McMahons, the coach expects continued growth from now-freshmen Dylan Bojanowski, who tied for fourth with an 84 at The Dalles, and Evan Eby. Redmond schools are also working to get more players involved at the eighth-grade level.

“To try to bring in some kids their freshman year where they know they’re golfers, and they don’t wonder why or what they’re doing, they, kind of, have been doing it for a little bit,” Ron Buerger said. “I miss those days back when I used to coach Redmond in the early 2000s. We had really high caliber teams for a lot of years and it was because of the depth. If we can get back to that, it will make a big difference.”

Justin McMahon looks forward to taking on more of the load, along with his brother. After all, they’ve long been competitive with each other.

“It’s always been really tight, and it’s always been a competition, no matter what we’re doing,” Justin said.

— Reporter: 541-548-2186, gfolsom@redmondspokesman.com