SARASOTA, Fla. — By the last putt, the ball doubled in size, picking up the snow — yes, snow — that had fallen on that cold day in Oregon.

Orioles prospects and close friends Adley Rutschman, Terrin Vavra and Kyle Stowers had almost called it quits when the snow persisted.

But then the sun poked through, livening a freezing day on the golf course this offseason and encouraging them to finish the round.

“Not the most ideal conditions,” said Stowers, an outfielder from Southern California.

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Rutschman, Vavra, Stowers and Gunnar Henderson — four Orioles prospects who represent the present and future of the organization — met up throughout the offseason for trips, most of which did not end up with them attempting to play snow golf.

They headed to Cabo once and San Diego another time, enjoying the considerably warmer weather at Torrey Pines. A day after golfing in the snow, Vavra, Rutschman and Stowers boarded a flight and headed to Las Vegas for former teammate Tyler Nevin’s bachelor party, where they golfed some more.

It’s an offseason passion, a way to step away from baseball yet still compete and have fun with the friends they’ve grown close to through long days and nights pushing through the minor leagues.

“I know I have guys who have my back, and they know I have theirs,” Stowers said. “During the season, when there’s ups and downs, to have someone that you know cares about you first off as a person and then as a player, I think you have people you can lean on in those tough times. And then in the good times, you have people you can celebrate with.”

Which Orioles prospect is the best golfer depends on who you ask.

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To Stowers, just about everyone’s golf game tops his. Vavra backs Rutschman as having the farthest drive, but Rutschman said “that’s just Terrin being nice.” Henderson — who swings right-handed in golf yet left in baseball — figures he’d be better at putting and using his long irons if he really committed time to it. Rutschman credits the whole group for how even it is, with each of them shooting in the low-to-mid 80s. There’s no glaring weakness in anyone’s game, he said — spoken like the team-first player he is.

But on that particular snowy day in Oregon, Rutschman was by and far the star.

“Adley was on a roll the one weekend we played, and he wiped the floor,” Vavra said. “Watching him hit a ball 1,000 yards is pretty cool. I think I can hit the ball far, and then I get outdrove by him and it’s like, ‘Oh, nice knowing ya.’”

For their trip to Torrey Pines, though, Henderson hit the money shot. On the 16th hole of the north course, Henderson pulled out his driver. From the tee, his uphill drive required a slight fade to curl back toward the green.

“Ended up hitting it really good and drove up there and it was on the green,” Henderson said. He and his teammate finished off with two putts for birdie. “It was pretty cool.”

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But Vavra and Stowers were quick to point out that their duo won the round at Torrey Pines finishing at -1. Rutschman and Henderson were at even par.

When the group gets together, they usually play a game, such as two-vs-two scramble or wolf — a more complicated game where players earn points and can choose whether to partner on holes.

“I can use the help,” Stowers joked while saying he prefers a best-ball scenario.

But there isn’t much smack talk. Instead, the group pumps each other up and gets excited when one of them hits a great shot — like battling through the snow, watching a golf ball turn into a snowball, and having fun regardless.

“Especially with golf, I don’t think anyone talks too much crap just ’cause you’re liable to have a bad shot,” Rutschman said. “You’re going to have a bad shot, so whatever you dished out, you’re going to get right back.”

Andy Kostka is an Orioles beat writer for The Baltimore Banner. He previously covered the Orioles for The Baltimore Sun. Kostka graduated from the University of Maryland and grew up in Rockville.

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