May 10, 2000
By Jason Hickman, WSU Sports Information
His teammates on the Washington State golf team call sophomore Jon Reehoorn "The Bear". But unlike the salmon-devouring mammal his nickname was derived from, the Burlington, Wash., native doesn't spend his winters in hibernation. He's too busy becoming one of the best young players in the Pac-10.
Despite the fact Reehoorn's future in golf looks bright, his career at Washington State was one that almost didn't happen. After helping his team to a state title at Burlington-Edison High School in 1997, he was still young in the game and didn't garner any attention from college coaches. Reehoorn came to the Pullman campus in August 1997 and decided to walk-on to the team anyway.
"Playing college golf wasn't that big of a deal to me," Reehoorn said. "I had only played competitively for two years so I just thought I would give it a shot."
Consistency was a problem for the young Reehoorn and former Cougar head coach Dan Koesters cut him from the team. That tryout nearly became the end of his competitive career.
"When I was cut I kind of put up the clubs for a while and didn't really care," the redshirt sophomore said. "But when I went home and worked at the golf course I started playing all the time. My friend (Western Washington University golfer )Craig Welty and I were real competitive and he kind of got me back into it. I realized I could play and it motivated me."
In addition to the countless hours Reehoorn and Welty put in at the Avalon Golf Club in Burlington, two other events took place in the summer of 1998 that gave "The Bear" the confidence to return to college golf.
First, Reehoorn qualified for the U.S. Amateurs at the Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York, where he played alongside Georgia Tech All-American Matt Kuchar. Secondly, Washington State hired a new head coach, native-Texan Walt Williams. The former all-conference golfer at McMurry University promised Reehoorn a shot if he qualified for the U.S. Amateurs and is certainly glad that he did.
"It showed a tremendous amount of perseverance on his part," Williams said about Reehoorn's return. "Coming back is one of his strong suits. He walked on and the coach before me cut him. When I came here I told him that I'd love to have him on the team and he has been playing ever since."
Reehoorn's perseverance was put to the test again as he struggled through the early part of his redshirt freshman season. It wasn't until the third tournament of the fall that Williams inserted him into the lineup, making his collegiate debut at the 1998 Northwest Classic in Corvallis, Ore. Out of 90 players in the event, Reehoorn beat only six. "It was disappointing because coach gave me a spot on the team and I didn't play very well," Reehoorn said. "I looked at it like I kind of let the team down but coach always told me that freshmen have a hard time in college golf so I took that and just tried to work hard." The hard work paid off when he placed fifth at the Idaho Invitational in the fall, but Reehoorn's inconsistent play forced Williams to take him out of the lineup again in the early spring. He did get a chance to play against and beat good friend Welty at the Oregon Duck Invitational but sat out the next two events.
Reehoorn, who along with brother Sean is a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, would get one more chance to prove himself in 1999 and that ended up being all he needed. Still a freshman, he broke out with a first-round 69 at the Inland Collegiate Challenge and followed that up with a 73. He got hot again in the final round and sealed his first collegiate victory with a three-under par 68. After finishes of 46th and 88th earlier in the spring, the Burlington High School product pulled off a surprising win. In typical fashion, Reehoorn downplayed the victory.
"It wasn't a very big tournament, but it was still pretty exciting," he said. Intent on proving the victory wasn't a fluke, his entire summer was spent on the golf course.
"I worked at the golf course (Avalon) from 6:00 am until about two in the afternoon," Reehoorn said. "I'd go home for lunch and then be back out on the course till sundown. I pitched a tent at the golf course and lived there."
Williams inserted the Inland Collegiate champion into the number one spot at the beginning of the 1999-2000 season and Reehoorn immediately began showing the country that he was for real. He shot a career-best, second-round 67 that gave him a 12th place finish at the Rocky Mountain Invitational. The next week he placed eighth at the Fairway Club Invitational in Lincoln, Neb., and then lead the Cougars to within two strokes of beating arch-rival and nationally-ranked Washington on their own course by placing 13th. Reehoorn landed in the top-25 of all five fall tournaments, the only Cougar accomplish that feat. Despite the success he has had, the quiet 20-year old shuns any individual attention.
"I'm not cocky and I don't really like to tell people what I do," Reehoorn said. "I want to see our team make it to regionals and be more successful. We need to go out and show that our play in the Husky Tournament wasn't a fluke and that we can play we these people."
His combination of talent, hard-work, and unselfishness makes him the type of player that coach's dream about having on their team. Williams sees Reehoorn as one of the reasons Washington State golf is gaining respect in the nations toughest golf conference.
"Jon does everything that a team leader would do," the second-year Cougar coach said. "He works hard and encourages other kids and wants to play as a team and be successful as a team. He obviously wants to do well individually but he is focused on the team. He will be a great leader."
As good as he is, Reehoorn will be the first to tell you he is nowhere near where he wants to be. Making the All Pac-10 team on the course and in the classroom are his goals for now, but if his rapid improvement continues, he just may outgrow them.
"He just continues to improve," Williams said. "He is a fierce competitor and has a great work ethic. You put those two things together and I'd say that there is probably no limit."