With both the Northwest Conference (NWC) Tournament and the NWC Championship at stake, the men’s golf team rose up to the challenge this past weekend to win both events. The NWC Tournament was worth half of the overall NWC Championship, with the earlier NWC Fall and Spring Classics worth one quarter each. The Bearcats, having placed third in the Spring Classic and second in the Fall Classic, entered the weekend with a slim chance of winning the championship. Whitworth had placed first in both Classics, and another strong performance would’ve earned them the championship.
The weather had taken a turn for the worse by the time the Bearcats arrived in Walla Walla, WA on Saturday, April 21.
“The wind was steady at 20 miles per hour with gusts of 30. At no point did it let up,” Willamette Head Coach Patrick Daugherty said in his interview with Robert McKinney.
The Bearcats fought through the terrible conditions, clawing to first place in the nine team tournament with a score of 309 by the end of the day’s action. Senior Kenneth Sheldon led the way for the team with a score of 75, which was also good for second place on the individual leaderboard. Senior Trent Jones was right behind him with 77, putting him in a tie for third place. Whitworth plummeted all the way to sixth place with a score of 325. Suddenly, the possibility of a Willamette Championship became very real. However, an entire day of action still remained in the tournament.
On Sunday, all the Bearcats performed well. The entire team finished within the top 12 on the individual leaderboard in the 45 player field. Senior Sam Hinton and first-year Austin Davis tied for third place at 149, and Jones pushed his overall score to 150, good for fifth place. Hinton shot two-under-par over the final 32 holes, including the final 14 holes of the first round. Davis registered scores of 78 on Saturday and 71 on Sunday. The entire team’s success was crucial for the team’s first-place finish in the tournament.
Willamette’s lowest-scoring player tied Whitworth’s second-best player in the standings, and outperformed three other teams’ best players. Willamette’s score of 289 on Sunday gave them a cumulative score of 598, which was good for first place in the NWC Tournament. However, Whitworth still had a chance to become NWC Champions.
The NWC Championship is determined by a points system. Points are awarded 8-7-6-5-etc. basis for the Fall and Spring Classic, while points for the NWC Tournament are distributed on a 16-14-12-10-etc. basis. The Bearcats claimed the NWC Championship with 29 points (7-6-16). Whitworth placed second with 28 points after finishing in third place on Sunday with a team score of 617. George Fox University, which held off Whitworth for second place with a score of 607, finished with 24 points (5-5-14).
As NWC Champions, the Willamette men’s golf team now holds the NWC’s spot in the NCAA Division III (DIII) Men’s Golf Championships. The Championships will occur from May 14 to May 17 at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, KT. The 42-team event will be made up of the 32 DIII Conference Champions from across the country, along with 10 wildcards. The Championships will be the last tournament for the Bearcats this year, capping off an incredible season and giving seniors Sheldon, Jones and Hinton one more chance to win for Willamette.
Featured Photo: Men’s golf team takes home the Northwest Conference (NWC) Championship last weekend, outdoing eight other NWC schools.
Courtesy of @NorthwestConf on Twitter