Senior Day for the Union High School boys golf team turned out to be an ideal early October afternoon to sneak in a quick nine holes—temperature in the 70s, not a cloud in the sky, nor a hint of wind.
The Titans and Skyview squared off in a 4A Greater St. Helens League match to be contested over the back nine at Camas Meadows Golf Course. Union senior Keith Lobis went off in the first group of the match with classmate Reece Boyce and Skyview’s top two golfers.
The match marked the end of the 4A GSHL season and was the next-to-last tournament of Lobis’ long and fruitful summer of competition, one that included the first two wins at majors of his junior career and trips to California and Florida for prestigious national tournaments.
Following every step of his journey has been his mother, Jennifer, who has walked the fairways of many a course over the past couple of years as Keith has pursued his passion.
“We’re always all-in for our kids,” she said. “My husband (Steve) and I are lucky and blessed that we can do this with our kids. It takes a lot of time, but we’re happy about it. His little sister (Drew) is more grumpy about it, but I keep telling her that her turn will come soon.”
As Jennifer watches, her son is scuffling around the course. He bogeys three straight holes as he struggles with the recently aerated greens, and he shows signs of frustration—a pained look here, a grumble under his breath as he tromps off a green there.
Jennifer’s expression, though, never changes. “Every once in a while, I get nervous,” she said. “But I don’t care about his score so much as when he lets his emotions get to him. He was a little bit of a hothead. He’s had to learn.”
The group gets to No. 17, a short par-3, and Keith immediately steps up to the tee and hits his wedge. Nothing in his demeanor suggests anything special—until the foursome reaches the green and you see a ball less than 6 inches from the hole. Keith casually taps it in for his lone birdie of the day.
After making a par at the par-5 18th hole, Keith signs his scorecard for a 2-over 38, turns it in, and takes a few photos to commemorate his final home match.
A few days later, he teed it up with 29 other golfers at Tri-Mountain Golf Course, hoping to defend his district title and punch a return trip to state. Mission accomplished—Lobis shot a pair of 1-under 71s to win for the second straight year, this time with a lot less drama, and he led the Titans to an eighth straight team championship.
“It feels really good to repeat,” Lobis said, who was named GSHL 4A Player of the Year by league coaches. “I had one goal going into the season and that was to repeat, and being able to accomplish that is amazing. I’m excited to get to go to state and for my teammates that also qualified.”
His district championship caps a long summer that also included accepting a scholarship offer from Gonzaga University, which he received after qualifying for the IMG Academy Junior World Championships in July. (He can officially sign November 8).
“I got the phone call in my hotel room, and I started dancing,” said Lobis, who sports a 4.0 GPA and plans to study computer engineering. “I had visited the campus and knew that’s where I wanted to go. To be able to play golf there is pretty much a dream come true.”
It’s a dream that started in elementary school, when he and his father would head out to play a friendly round or two. Keith did not start getting serious about golf until he was in eighth grade, though, when he and a group of friends would go out to Green Mountain and pick teams for impromptu four-person scrambles.
“As my friends started quitting, I kept at it,” Lobis said. “I was still having fun.”
Lobis doesn’t consider himself an especially long hitter, relying on his iron play and touch around the greens to score.
“I just try to play straight shots and not do anything super flashy,” he said. “I can make a lot of birdies that way.”
It was the strategy he employed all summer, which came after a disappointing 36th-place finish at the 4A state championships at Liberty Lake in Spokane.
“That definitely motivated me for the summer,” he said. “I worked really hard on my game between state and my first summer tournament.”
That tournament turned out to be a fifth-place finish at Oregon Junior Golf’s Centennial Junior Championship in Medford, Ore.—at the time a career-best. He then won the qualifier for the Optimist Junior Worlds with a 3-under 69 at Forest Hills in Cornelius, Or.
Keith Lobis’ Favorite Things
TV show: Game of Thrones
It’s just the show I’m watching right now. That’s why I like it the most.
Movie: Step Brothers
I love comedies, and that’s my favorite comedy. Favorite brother? Will Farrell, for sure.
School subject: Calculus
It came pretty naturally to me. I didn’t study for a test the entire year and had the highest grade in the class and got a 5 on the AP test.
The spicy tuna roll is my favorite. I love spicy food, and I like the spicy mayo they put on it.
Golfer: Jordan Spieth
I love Phil (Mickelson), but he’s kind of fallen off. And I get told that I look just like Jordan a lot.
Cartoon character: Stewie Griffin
I’m going to stick with the comedy theme. I just like how they made him a baby with a British accent, and the way he manipulates everyone around him.
Next up was the IMG qualifier at Trysting Tree in Corvallis, Ore., where he shot a pair of 71s to tie for fourth. Since the winner was exempt to the IMGs, there was a playoff for the final spot at the main event, which Lobis won.
Winning the playoff meant a trip to Torrey Pines in San Diego, Calif., which previously hosted a U.S. Open and annually holds a PGA Tour event. Lobis didn’t make the cut (“Torrey Pines is a really hard course”) but had a blast and, of course, got the call from the Gonzaga coaching staff during his trip.
That set up a fantastic finish to his season. He won the Central Oregon Junior for his first career OGA Junior victory. A couple weeks later, it was off to PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., for the Optimist International Junior Golf Championships, where he made the cut and shot a 75 in the final round to finish tied for 24th out of 152 golfers.
Finally, last month, Lobis finished off the OGA Junior season by winning the Tournament of Major Champions at Aspen Lakes in Sisters, Ore., birdieing the last two holes to win by two shots over Oregon Junior Stroke Play champion Craig Ronne.
Asked to sum up his season, Lobis explained, “It just showed me that I have the capability to play with all the top players, not just in the area, but the entire West Coast.”
With districts over, Lobis has to wait more than seven months for the high school state championships in the Tri-Cities. Last year, he took part in a few junior tournaments, even taking third at Bandon Dunes, but he knows he needs to consistently brave conditions much worse than this warm, sunny October afternoon if he wants to reach his goal of a top-5 finish in May.
No matter what happens, though, Mom will be there waiting. As Jennifer put it, “I’m just along for the ride.”