Seamlessly completing a transition to a new head coach, the Linfield Wildcats sloshed their way through a rainy spring on the way to a fourth-place standing in the final 2016-17 Northwest Conference point standings.
Seasoned golf veteran John Sandberg took the reins of the program from retired coach Greg Copeland, successfully guidING the team to a favorable finish in the NWC. The season marked Sandberg’s first as a coach at any level, making all the details relating to the management of the team a learning opportunity.
“Golf is such an individual sport,” said Sandberg, reflecting on how he adjusted to his new role. “Some players appreciate input from the coach during a round and others prefer very little coaching, if any. It’s often difficult to know how much my input helps the player or interferes with their focus and concentration. Just figuring out the logistics of following as many as seven guys who are all spread out playing different holes on a large golf course was a challenge as well.”
The Pacific Northwest experienced one of wettest springs in decades. Every tournament the Wildcats competed in during the spring portion of the schedule, save for a trip to Southern California, had at least some rainy or stormy weather.
Sandberg noted the Wildcats demonstrated improvement in posting consistent scores and avoidance of high scores on individual holes. That resulted in markedly better team results.
“We had a 10-stroke spread between our low and high scores in the fall conference tournament,” said Sandberg. “At the Spring Classic and the NWC Championships, the spread between low and high scores was down to four strokes.”
Lucas Balala was the Wildcats’ most consistent performer, averaging 75.88 strokes per round while posting three top-10 finishes. Balala was the top finisher at the season-ending NWC Championships, placing 12th.
Newcomer Bodhi Parkin averaged 77.00 strokes per round over the course of the fall and spring seasons. Close behind Parkin were Mason Rodby (77.50) and Logan Davis (77.74). Isaac Grebisz (77.82) proved to be another reliable scorer, shaving nearly four strokes off his season average the previous year.
Max Hanson returned from an injury during the fall to produce decent scores in the spring. Hanson recorded the lowest round of the season by any individual, carding a 68 at Wildhorse Golf Course while helping the Wildcats claim second place at the Whitworth Spring Invitational.
“Max’s early spring scores showed how much work he had put into his game in the offseason. Mason spent his spring break working very hard on his game, then came back and was able to qualify for both spring conference tournaments. He was an important contributor to our third- and fourth-place finishes at those two events.”
Davis’ season was memorable for the hole-in-one he sank at the Willamette Spring Thaw.
Heading to the offseason, Sandberg has asked his returning team members to focus on their play on the greens.
“Putting seems to be our weakest area as a team,” he said. “Players know that we must become better putters in order to move up in the conference standings next year.”