PENDLETON, Ore. – Greg Copeland called it the “greatest comeback” in his 11 seasons as Linfield men’s golf coach. Star Alex Fitch described it as “a really big win.”
Down 11 strokes to begin Sunday’s second round of play at the Northwest Conference Spring Classic, Copeland’s Wildcats played the equivalent of an April Fools Day joke on the rest of the league. In the face of gusty winds and a lackluster first round, the defending NWC champions roared back to take the title at the nine-team tournament, which counts one-fourth toward determining the NWC team champion for 2011-12.
Making the surprising outcome all the more remarkable, Fitch struggled over the final 18 holes while first-year players Taylor Klopp (Soph., Eugene, Ore.) and Connor Magnuson (Soph., Albany, Ore.) improved by leaps and bounds from the first round to carry the Wildcats to victory.
Klopp shaved 10 strokes from Day 1, carding 80-70-150, good for a tie with Fitch for fifth place in the individual race. Fitch shot 73 on the first day but ballooned to 77 on Sunday. A.J. Taylor (Jr., Kirkland, Wash.) was close behind in a tie for eighth place at 76-77-153.
“My game felt really good today,” said Klopp. “As long as it didn’t rain, I felt like I didn’t need to really change my game that much. I had some solid drives, my iron play was pretty good, and I was able to get up and down pretty good.”
Magnuson, who competes in football during the fall portion of the season, shot 82-75-157 to stake a share of 14th place. Tommy Schmitz (Jr., Gresham, Ore.) rounded out the Linfield scoring, shooting 81-83-164, earning a portion of 20th place.
Linfield’s two-round score of 609 leadfrogged host Whitman (615), Whitworth (616), and Pacific Lutheran (621).
Puget Sound (626) was fifth, George Fox was sixth (637), followed by Willamette (641), Pacific (670) and Lewis & Clark (736).
Whitworth’s Jesse Salzwedel shot 71-72-143 to take medalist honors. Scott Martin of Whitman was runner-up at 70-76-146.
COMING UP: Linfield competes next at the Willamette Invitational, April 14-15, at Illahe Golf Course in Salem.
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