NCAA Championship Information
KENNEWICK, Wash. – Alex Fitch can finally cut his hair.
Fitch pledged to his coach that he wouldn’t trim his locks until he won a tournament. Victory in the 2010-11 season had eluded him, until Saturday, when the Linfield College junior rose up to win the Northwest Conference Championship Tournament at Canyon Lakes Golf Course.
Backed by a strong one-punch from Fitch and Yutaro Sakamoto, Linfield held off Whitworth and Puget Sound by comfortable margins.
By winning this weekend's tournament, which was hosted by Whitman and caps the regular season, Linfield finished atop the final conference standings and claims the 2010-11 NWC title. The Wildcats also earn an automatic berth in the NCAA Division III national championship tournament, May 10-13, at Greensboro, N.C.
Fitch won NWC Championship medalist honors for the first time of his three-year college career, carding a 70-72 142. Nursing a two-stroke lead over perennial all-star golfer Max Bonk of Pacific, Fitch weathered adversity on the final hole capping a one-stroke victory by sinking a four-foot putt.
Sakamoto, a Linfield senior, fired a 2-under 70 on Saturday – the round's low score – and finished third in the tournament's individual scoring with a 144 total.
Linfield posted a second-round team score of 294 for its top four golfers, finishing with a 36-hole total of 595.
The Wildcats beat second-place NWC rival Whitworth (307-304 611) by 16 strokes and outplayed third-place Puget Sound (311-306 617) by 22 shots.
Puget Sound, which won the Fall Classic in October and was second to Linfield at the recent Spring Classic, finished second in the season-long standings. Whitworth was third, Pacific fourth and Whitman fifth.
Linfield's Fitch finished at 2-under par for the tourney, winning NWC Player of the Year honors while edging Pacific's Bonk (72-71 143) by a single stroke.
It wasn’t all Fitch and Sakamoto who led the Wildcats to the tournament title. Josh Kay, who joined the squad in the spring after participating in football during the fall, shot a 77-76-153 to share eighth place. A.J. Taylor shot 80-79-159, and Tommy Schmitz shaved nine strokes off his first-round total of 85 to shoot 76 on Saturday and earn a tie for 26th place.
By virtue of their play in this weekend's tournament, Fitch and Sakamoto earned spots on the all-NWC team. Bonk had already assured himself of all-conference honors by winning medalist honors at both the Fall and Spring Classics.
Other team scores for the tournament: Pacific (320-305 625), Whitman (316-313 629), George Fox (320-319 639), Pacific Lutheran (319-322 641) and Willamette (355-331 686).
The golfers who placed fourth, fifth and sixth in this weekend's tournament also snared All-NWC honors: Puget Sound's Greg Kirkpatrick (72-76 148), Whitworth's Jesse Salzwedel (73-76 149) and Cameron Whittle (75-75 150), and Lewis & Clark's Har Rai Khalsa (77-73 150).