- Photo Courtesy of Andrew Fitch
Birdies and eagles led the men’s golf team to move into first place in the Northwest Conference Championships on April 19 and 20 at the Apple Tree Golf Course in Yakima, Wash.
Freshman Brynn Hurdus finished the championship course in second place and helped the women’s team finish third overall in the conference.
After finishing first out of eight teams during the first day, the men’s team stayed constant and played smart on tough holes, head coach Greg Copeland said. They repeated the performance on day two and squeezed past runner-up Whitworth University by 14 strokes.
The last time the men’s golf team won a conference title was in 1964.
“The reason we do so well is we trust each other,” junior Andrew Fitch said. “We are all accountable to each other, and we pull for each other.”
The conference victory gives the team an automatic bid to go to Braselton, Ga., on May 13 for the NCAA Division III National Championship.
“We’re only halfway to our goal of winning the national championship,” Fitch said. “We can’t get excited yet.”
Fitch tailed conference rival Pacific University’s freshman Max Bonk by only four strokes in the championship and tied for second place with Pacific Lutheran University’s senior Chris Packard. Two eagles, split between both days, and the ability to thrive under pressure gave Fitch the runner-up spot.
“I prepared myself to build up to this tournament,” Fitch said. “Since losing to Whitworth last year, I’ve been working on my 100 yards and end game, putting and chipping.”
Sophomore Tyler Nelson came in at 146 strokes, taking third overall.
In addition to leading the conference, many individuals were recognized for their individual performances. Fitch and Nelson were honored as all-NWC golfers. Copeland was named NWC Coach of the Year for the first time in the seven years he has served as head coach.
The women’s team rounded out its season at the championship in fourth place. They finished third in the NWC.
An 18-stroke jump from the first day moved the ’Cats up from fifth to fourth place on day two. Teams from Pacific University, Whitworth College and the University of Puget Sound bested the ’Cats, taking the top three spots in the championship, respectively.
Hurdus finished with 166 strokes, five up from Willamette University’s Whitney Ueno, the championship medalist.
“I was actually hitting my drives really, really well,” Hurdus said. “The first day my short game wasn’t great, and it kind of clicked the second day.”
Senior Shawnie Dakan was the next highest ranked Wildcat, finishing part of a five-way tie for eighth place at 176.
Hurdus, who was awarded all-NWC honors, said high winds, rain and snow didn’t hurt the team, which has learned to play in those conditions. Overall, the whole team performed better on day two, Hurdus said.
“We came off the course feeling like we played well,” Hurdus said. “Shawnie had her best round of the season on day two, which as a senior is great. As a team, we came off the course happy.”