Does Brayden Roberts love spending time with his family? Absolutely. Does he enjoy it when his family heads to their cabin just outside Coeur d’Alene? You bet.
Does Roberts, a senior at Pullman High School, like spending time with his family in a cabin in nature while his career as a interscholastic athlete possibly goes swirling down the drain? Meh ... not so much.
“There’s not much to do up here,” Roberts said Monday. “I go fishing, and sometimes I’ll just take a drive around (the area), but for the most part, I’m just at home doing schoolwork or playing video games.
“It gets boring very fast, so I’ve been looking for little things to do to stay occupied.”
Typically this time of year, Roberts and the rest of the Greyhounds are out on a golf course plying their wares, attempting to win another Great Northern League match or ultimately, the league championship.
Instead, Roberts and his teammates, including fellow seniors Dane Bednar, Terry Byrne and Ethan Kramer, have been sidelined much like the rest of the country because of the concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.
In Washington state, Gov. Jay Inslee issued a stay-at-home order March 23, while the leader of the state mandated that schools be closed on March 13. The schools have been shut down since March 17. The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, under the guidelines set forth by the governor’s office, have suspended play through April 24, with the first possible day of returning being April 27. As of now, spring sports state championships still will be conducted at the end of May, but that could possibly change.
Inslee hinted Wednesday that it’s likely he will extend the stay-at-home order for another 30 days in the near future.
In the Evergreen state, there are 4,896 confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control website, with a total of 195 deaths. However, there have been some technical difficulties with the Washington Department of Health’s website as there hasn’t been an update since late Saturday.
For a period of time, Washington was the epicenter of the outbreak. But in the past week, New York state has become ground zero in the United States for the pandemic.
In Whitman County, there were 10 positive cases as of 2 p.m. Pacitic on Wednesday, according to the county’s public health website.
It’s a situation that’s rocked the country as a whole, putting a hold on numerous major sporting events. It’s also left the world of high school sports in a state of limbo, particularly for senior athletes who were looking for a final chance to shine on the field of play.
“For them, I’m pretty sure they’d like to expect that we can get back to it here in a couple of weeks,” said Pullman coach Craig McCormick, who is in his 23rd year in charge. “I’m not sure that’s going to happen, obviously. I’m guessing that’s kind of what they’re hoping for.”
If it does happen, the four seniors will look to continue to build on their recent success, particularly Bednar and Byrne. Byrne has been a qualifier to the state tournament the past two seasons, while Bednar, who also plays on the boys’ basketball team, is a three-time state qualifier.
Bednar, in particular, might be looking for some redemption. In last season’s state tournament at Liberty Lake Golf Course in Liberty Lake, Wash., he was docked eight penalty strokes because McCormick was standing in the wrong spot at four different holes. A new rule instituted in 2019 prohibits a coach or a caddy from standing behind the tee box when a competitor is teeing off.
That took Bednar’s score, which was a 168, all the way up to a 176 and placed him 37th. As a freshman in 2017, he tied for 23rd place and as a sophomore in 2018, Bednar missed the cut after shooting a first-round 86. There’s no question he wants to get back in action and see what he can do if the state tournament, which is scheduled for May 27-28, is conducted at Indian Canyon Golf Course in Spokane.
So too is Byrne, who missed the cut after shooting a first-day total of 93 as a junior last season. He finished in 43rd place as a sophomore.
McCormick said the players mainly built their games from the ground up. Bednar and, to a lesser extent, Byrne previously had played in some junior tournaments throughout the spring and summer before joining the team four seasons ago, so they almost were like seasoned veterans.
“Dane and Terry have been to state a couple of times and they’d played more as younger kids,” McCormick said. “They were able to be in the top few kids in the league the past couple of years and looked like they were going to be there again this year. It’s kind of too bad for them.”
But that’s not to say Roberts and Kramer, who also were teammates of Bednar’s on the boys’ basketball team, haven’t made their presence known. As McCormick rightly points out, golf, while typically an individual sport in nature, at the high school level is more about helping the team achieve the lowest score possible. With Roberts and Kramer providing much needed depth, the Greyhounds have been perennial contenders in the GNL, winning the league three consecutive seasons.
“Ethan and Brayden were more like athletes that had golfed and decided to come out,” McCormick said. “Because they were athletic and competitive, they were able to get their scores into a reasonable position to (help us) win the league the past couple of seasons.
“When you score your top five scorers out of the six you take, it sort of comes down to the fourth and fifth (golfer). Really, that’s the difference between programs is if you have kids that can score reasonably well down into your (Nos. 4 and 5 spots). That’s what those kids started doing as freshmen, and then they just obviously have gained experience as they went.”
Roberts still is hopeful that the team can play this season.
“We still go play every once in a while together, so we’re definitely hopeful to get back out there,” Roberts said.
He also said the underclassmen can take some valuable lessons out of what’s currently going on.
“I would tell them to enjoy every second,” Roberts said. “You literally get to go out and play golf for free every day. That’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, to go get to play free golf and be with your friends. I would just tell them to enjoy it and don’t take it for granted, because (your time) can end so fast.”
Walden may be reached at (208) 848-2258, email@example.com, or on Twitter at @waldo9939.