UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – Swirling winds and steady rain, combined with a championship-level course, greeted the Linfield Wildcats Sunday as they teed off at the Pacific Lutheran Invitational at Chambers Bay Golf Club.
The Wildcats struggled at the 11-team tournament, sharing seventh place with an opening-round score of 327, a distant 23 strokes back of host PLU. The Lutes, carding a 304, lead the tournament by one stroke over neighboring Northwest Conference foe Puget Sound. Whitman is third at 310, followed by Whitworth (313), and George Fox and Willamette (both at 326). Linfield sits tied with PLU’s No. 2 squad, each at 327.
The par-5 eighth hole was the Linfield’s nadir. Sophomore Taylor Klopp (Sr., Eugene, Ore.) was 1-over par through the first seven holes, before being saddled with a nine-stroke nightmare on No. 8. Klopp finished a respectable 6-over-78, good for a share of 15th place.
Other Wildcats also found the going tough on the No. 8. Taylor Pirnke (Sr., Mill Creek, Wash.) shot an 82 and its in a tie for 24th place heading to Monday’s second round. Connor Magnuson is one stroke back at 83. Ryan Nolan and A.J. Taylor each shot 84.
Chambers Bay, which will host the U.S. Open in the summer of 2015, features fast, treeless fairways with lots of undulations on its water-lined links.
On Sunday, winds of 20-25 miles an hour hounded the tournament’s participants during the first nine holes before pounding rains kicked on the back nine.
“It was pretty hard to hit the ball straight with those kinds of winds,” said Wildcats coach Greg Copeland. “If you didn’t hit the ball solid, the wind would carry it and send it into a hazard.”
For the Wildcats, the good news is that they can climb back into the upper half of the tournament with a solid round on Sunday.
“If we play well, we can make up some ground,” said Copeland. “We have to do a better job of staying away from hazards. The guys just need to trust their swing.”