Complete NWC All-Star Team
KENNEWICK, Wash. - Alex Fitch bagged his seventh tournament title of the 2011-12 season and Linfield nailed down its second straight conference championship and fourth in five seasons after winning the Northwest Conference Tournament by three strokes Sunday at Canyon Lakes Golf Course.
The tournament victory allowed the Wildcats to finish atop the NWC point standings, claiming the automatic berth to the NCAA Division III Championships, May 15-18, at Mission Inn and Resort in Orlando, Fla.
“Alex really didn’t hit the ball all that well today,” said Wildcats coach Greg Copeland. “But because he’s such a wily veteran, his misses didn’t put him in that much trouble. He was able to wiggle out of some jams with his putter.”
Fitch, who shot a 2-under-par 68-74-142, nursed a one-stroke advantage after the first day, then held off challenges from Puget Sound’s Nick Kelley (73-74-147) and Pacific Lutheran’s Dustin Hegge (69-79-148) to claim the tournament’s top prize.
On Fitch’s fourth hole, the par-5 13th, he was off the green in two strokes, chipping for an eagle. That put the Linfield senior in control the rest of the way.
“Alex’s 4-under-68 on the first day really set the tone for our team,” said Copeland. “I don’t know if it was the pressure of the big tournament or what, but our freshmen were kind of nervous going into the tournament. When you have a guy who can go out and hit scores that low, it really takes so much pressure off the other guys.”
Linfield frosh Connor Magnuson carded a 73-76-149 to share fourth place with Whitworth’s Saul Martinez. Another freshman, Taylor Klopp (Jr., Eugene, Ore.), shot 74-76-150 to finish in a standoff for sixth place.
‘CAT SCRATCH: Copeland was named the NWC Coach of the Year. . . Fitch earned his fourth consecutive all-conference honor. . . also named to the all-conference team from Linfield were Klopp, a first team selection, and Magnuson, who was appointed to the second team. . . Hegge unseated Fitch as NWC Player of the Year after claiming top-three finishes in each of the three major NWC tournaments throughout the year. . . the Wildcats will try to improve on the program’s highest finish at NCAA Championships (17th in 2008). . . Linfield also placed 25th in 2010 and 30th last season. . . Copeland said his team’s goals is to make the initial cut, meaning the Wildcats will need to finish among the top 15 teams after 36 holes. “It’s a tall order, but I believe we are capable of doing it.”
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