Getting into the swing of things

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Grant Lucas
For The Spokesman

Approaching the tee box at the 17th hole of Juniper Golf Course, the first Central Oregon golf round nearly behind us, Reid Preppernau looked around, up at the sky, and chuckled.

“We’ve come (to Central Oregon) four times or so,” the 64-year-old Kennewick, Wash., resident said. “This is the best weather we’ve ever had.”

Tough to argue with that.

Mostly clear skies on a late April afternoon, temperatures lingering in the mid-60s. It makes for an ideal first outing in the 2013 golf season, no matter the caliber of play that was seen for 18 holes.

And we were not alone.

From local twosomes taking a day off from work to families hitting the links during vacation to singles players who are just getting out of the house, the starting list was full.

“What you started seeing was people were getting a little bit of cabin fever, maybe, and saw the good weather and started coming out,” says Steve Bratcher, general manager at Juniper. “I think it’s a little bit of the time of the year. April’s always our beginning of the season, so to speak.”

A dry winter season allowed courses to entertain extra rounds. The winter, specifically February and March, was good, is how Bratcher describes it. But it got pretty dry.

Without their water pumps, which could not be turned on until April 1, all Juniper had was its irrigation lake. So until April came around, there was conservative watering, just tees and greens. It was pretty concerning, Bratcher says.

Before April, there was not much moisture to speak of, but water was available. The lake was refilled, and irrigation began. But when April hit, the weather turned poor and began to run people away.

“It was a good winter, a dry winter, and then April starting off the spring was kind of the opposite,” Bratcher says. “We kind of got our winter late, which hurt us in April. It was great in February and March, but April was a tough month.”

After a few weeks of chill and wind, however, things have picked up, and golfers will capitalize on it for as long as they can, and it shows.

The start sheets have been rather full when the weather resembles that of April 23, Bratcher says, and as long as the temperatures remain steady, as long as the rain holds off, that trend will continue and lead to a boom early in the season — although Bratcher says it is not unusual.

April 23 was the perfect-height ledge to jump from to dive into the 2013 season. It was not only a chance to get back into the swing of the sport but a chance to return to Central Oregon golf for the first time in five years, to return home.

The same could be said for Reid Preppernau and his son, Scott.

The Preppernaus hail from Kennewick — though Scott now lives in Portland — but for them, teeing off at Juniper during their vacation was familiar to them.

“That’s why I love coming here,” said Scott Preppernau, 31. “It’s so much like home.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0307; glucas@redmondspokesman.com.

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