Grant Lucas

The step between high school and collegiate golf is more like an Olympic-level long jump. Mayson Tibbs and Cole Chrisman will be the first to tell you that.

Courses are longer. The competition is stiffer. There are more hazards and trees in play. Greens are firmer and faster. More than ever before, the mental fortitude of these two former Central Oregon high school standouts was tested this past year.

And that makes the duo more prepared for a summer filled with high-tier tournaments — including next week’s Oregon Open Invitational at Aspen Lakes in Sisters.

“I’m really excited about it,” says Tibbs, a Crook County High graduate who recently completed his freshman season at Oregon Tech in Klamath Falls. “I felt like I made some advancements with my game this past season. It was tough this year because I was trying to balance a lot more schoolwork, which made it harder to get out and practice. But this summer, I feel like I have a lot more time to get out and put the work in and take my game to another level. I feel really strong about my game and I feel like I’m able to compete at the levels that I’m playing at right now.”

“It was a way different experience than I expected in terms of the (golf) courses,” says Chrisman, a Summit High grad who played his freshman year at Idaho. “The courses were a lot harder than anything I played in high school or junior golf. … It definitely prepared me for any tournament this summer.”

The two rising sophomores enjoyed their shares of the spotlight in high school — they often were grouped together during regular-season tournaments.

“Me and Cole have played a ton of golf together,” Tibbs recalls. “We grew up playing together. Throughout high school, it felt like we were paired together in every event. He was probably my biggest competition in high school in Central Oregon, and even in OGA (Oregon Golf Association events), he was one of my biggest rivals, I guess.”

As Tibbs and Chrisman worked their way through the junior and high school golf ranks, each sharpened the skills of the other. They kept tabs on each other and used each other as gauges, all the while pushing their regional rival to his utmost potential.

Chrisman, for example, went on to compete at four Class 5A state championships, placing in the top 10 three times (including a runner-up finish as a sophomore) while helping the Storm win three team titles. Tibbs, meanwhile, was a three-time 4A state participant, twice taking third place and leading Crook County to its only state championship as a junior in 2016.

Chrisman headed to Moscow, Idaho, for his freshman season with the Vandals. It was an eye-opener for the former Storm player. He reconstructed his swing, then honed his short game, including altering his putting grip. By no means was it an easy transition for the freshman, and he struggled in several tournaments. By season’s end, however, Chrisman had settled in, and his best tourney was Idaho’s last — a 5-over-par 221 at the three-day Big Sky Conference championships to help the Vandals place third as a team.

“This year was more of a learning experience than anything,” reflects Chrisman, who this week is playing in the Oregon Amateur Championship at Bend Golf Club. “Even though I’d say I contributed to the team when I did play … it was a learning experience on what it takes to play at the Division I level.”

By contrast, Tibbs immediately made his presence felt at Oregon Tech. With a scoring average of 75.68 for the second-lowest on the team, he recorded five top-five finishes during his debut season, including claiming medalist honors with a 9-over 225 at the Cascade Collegiate Conference championships in Bend at Pronghorn’s Nicklaus Course. He went on to post a 231 at the NAIA national championships to finish a respectable 108th in the field.

Following a standout freshman season, Tibbs loaded his summer schedule with highly competitive tournaments between rounds with the men’s club at his home course of Meadow Lakes in Prineville.

“I’m playing with a lot more adults this year,” Tibbs says. “It helps a lot, especially playing with these really good players who have been doing it for a while. I pick their brains a lot about how they go through and manage their rounds. I definitely ask questions when I have them.

“I’d say I’m a lot more confident this year.”

Tibbs and Chrisman will not have to travel far for their next premier tournament, as the Oregon Open Invitational, scheduled for June 26-28, will be staged here in Central Oregon at Aspen Lakes. Both players competed in the tournament last year at Juniper in Redmond, where Chrisman tied for 62nd overall (tied for 19th among amateurs) while Tibbs missed the cut after two rounds.

And grouped together for the first round this year, along with Meadow Lakes professionals Zach Lampert and Jared Lambert, are the two players who pushed each other throughout their high school and junior golf careers.

For Tibbs, playing with Lampert is already a bonus. Lampert coached Tibbs for four years at Crook County High and has taken the young golfer under his wing while Tibbs continues to develop his game. Having Chrisman in the same group, says Tibbs, is even more valuable.

“You definitely compare yourself to him,” Tibbs says. “If you have a bad day and you look up at the leaderboard, you’re looking and hoping to see that you snuck out a stroke or two on him.”

“He brings that out of me,” Chrisman adds. “He wants to beat me and I want to beat him. That’s how we’ve always been with each other. We always want to beat each other.”