WALLA WALLA, Wash. – Sloping greens and hazardous approaches made for a challenging first day for the Linfield Wildcats at the Whitman Invitational, staged Sunday among rolling wheat fields that surround Wine Valley Golf Club.
Linfield junior A.J. Taylor (Jr., Kirkland, Wash.) fired an even-par 72 to share seventh place after Day 1 and the Wildcats sit in fourth place at the eight-team tournament that includes all but one Northwest Conference program.
“This is a fun course to play,” said Wildcats coach Greg Copeland. “There are a lot of difficult sandtraps plus the greens have noticeable slopes, so you have to be precise with your approaches and chips."
Taylor began the day 3-over-par on the front nine, including a double bogey on the par-5, 575-yard No. 3 hole. He eventually found his groove on the back nine, scoring 3-under-par the rest of the way.
Linfield’s Taylor Pirnke (Soph., Mill Creek, Wash.) turned in a solid round with a 2-over 74. He shares 12th place, one stroke better than Wildcats freshman Kyle Hargrave (Fr., Clackamas, Ore.), who carded a 75. Taylor Klopp (Soph., Eugene, Ore.) and Ryan Nolan (Soph., Tigard, Ore.) each shot 76s to share 21st place. Connor Magnuson (Soph., Albany, Ore.) scored 77.
“Our guys put themselves in some tough spots around the greens,” said Copeland. “And we probably could have done a better job of putting. We had quite a few three-putts.”
Pacific Lutheran’s Dustin Hegge and Whitworth’s Lyle Rudnicki lead all golfers with opening round totals of 69. Four golfers are tied at 70 and share third place heading to Monday’s second round.
Whitworth leads the team standings with a 287, followed by PLU at 292 and Puget Sound at 293. The Wildcats are 10 strokes off the pace at 297, two strokes ahead of Whitman at 299.
‘CAT SCRATCH: Hargrave nearly converted a hole-in-one on the par-3, 210-yard sixth hole, but his lofting shot sailed beyond the pin, rolled back on the slope of the green then rimmed the cup before settling two inches from the target.
3-under-par on back nine
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