DUPONT, Wash. – Linfield senior Alex Fitch withstood a strong challenge from teammate Taylor Klopp (Soph., Eugene, Ore.) to take top honors and both Wildcats helped bring home the team trophy at the Lutes Invitational, which wrapped up two days of play at The Home Course.
Linfield shot 307 on Sunday and 607 for the tournament to win the eight-team event by 13 strokes over host Pacific Lutheran. North Idaho College and Whitworth shared third place at 625. Puget Sound was fifth (631), followed by Willamette (642), George Fox (659) and Pacific (684).
Building a four-stroke cushion through the middle holes of Sunday’s second round, Fitch had to weather a rough patch over the final two holes to capture medalist honors by one stroke. After carding a tournament-best 72 on Saturday, Fitch recorded a 76 across the final 18 holes while weathering a double bogey on the 17th hole and a bogey on No. 18.
The 18th hole, according to the Northwest Conference’s reigning player of the year, was “a tough hole. It was pretty long at 450 yards, uphill and into the wind.”
Klopp, who shot 77 over the final 18 holes, tied for second place with Whitworth’s Jesse Salzwedel, both with five-over-par 149s.
“My putter kind of let me down today,” said Klopp. “I missed two or three putts that really hurt, both from about 15 feet.”
Klopp’s emergence this spring was timely, after proven veteran Josh Kay announced early in the week his decision not to play golf and instead concentrate on football.
“Taylor gets my vote for MVP,” said Fitch. “Beating Whitworth, Puget Sound and PLU feels really good, especially considering we have so many (first-year) players.”
Linfield’s A.J. Taylor (Jr., Kirkland, Wash.) shared fifth place at 154, scoring 77 both days. Taylor Pirnke (Soph., Mill Creek, Wash.) earned a portion of eighth place at 156. Newcomer Connor Magnuson (Soph., Albany, Ore.) shot 160 for the tournament to finish in a tie for 17th.
Conditions at The Home Course continued to be cold and windy, making the unfamiliar course all the more challenging for the Wildcats.
AHEAD: Linfield heads to the Lone Star State to test its mettle against a variety of NCAA Division III programs at the Texas Lutheran Invitational, March 12-13, in Seguin, Texas.
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