’Cats still swinging after three days

Julia Long

Review staff writer

 

It has been nearly 40 years since the Linfield men’s golf team has made it to nationals, but this year the players  show they are up to par.

After three rounds, the ’Cats are tied for 13th place. A strong third day pushed the team toward the middle of the field, putting them 37 strokes behind the leading St. John
Fisher College.

Sophomore Joel Rychard had Linfield’s best third-round performance at three strokes over par.

Junior Andrew Fitch has led the way for the ’Cats with a plus-15 tournament total thus far.

Close behind Fitch, sophomore Tyler Nelson is 16 shots over par, including a team-best three over par
on Thursday.

Landing a win at the NWC championship tournament ensured the team a spot amid the 35 other colleges competing in Brazelton, Ga. May 13 through 16.

Fitch, Rychard, Nelson and seniors Jeff Nigro and Kyle Henderson tested their skills against an elite set of Division III golfers.

The men had to adjust to differences between Oregon and the East Coast.

“Just being in Georgia is an obstacle,” Henderson said. “The courses are all different. Bermuda grass plays different. The weather is more humid and hot.”

The tournament, located at the Chateau Elan Resort, consisted of an undulating par 71 course, the Chateau course, and a challenging par 72 at the Woodlands course. On day one, the ’Cats played the Chateau course with promising results, finishing in fourth place.

Day two brought the Woodlands course, which presented some challenges for the Wildcats, head coach Greg Copeland said.

“It was easy to be out of bounds, and there were lots of hazards off the sides of the fairway,” Copeland said. “You couldn’t afford to make mistakes, and if you did, you paid for it.”

After overcoming the setbacks of day two, Linfield tied Emory University for 12th place and had a total score of 622, trailing St. John Fisher College by 26 strokes.

Moving down a few places neither detered the golfers nor the coach.

The cut that narrowed the field to the top 23 teams after the first two rounds included Linfield College.

Henderson cited the team’s experience playing together as the reason for this year’s
success.

“Last year we were in the same position, but we didn’t come through in the conference tournament,” Henderson said. “Experience plays a role. We are very compatible, and we all get along. We are a very close team.”

Copeland said he hopes the Wildcats will end their season in the top 10. The players hope to achieve as much, especially Henderson and Nigro.

“Our goal is to shoot 300 or better in the next two rounds,” Henderson said. “Overall it’s just awesome to be finishing at nationals for my and Jeff’s
last tournament.”

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