NWC golfers burn up Wine Valley links
WALLA WALLA — Before play began here Sunday at the Wine Valley Golf Club, Whitman men’s coach Peter McClure conjectured that a 595 score for 36 holes might be good enough to win the Whitman Invitational.
He was doing some recalculating this morning heading into the second and final round on the spacious par-72 links-style course after no fewer than six players broke par and three others matched it. And if Whitworth can duplicate its tournament-leading 287 tally for its top four players, the Pirates will eclipse McClure’s estimate by 21 shots.
“They’re shooting a little bit better than I expected,” McClure said of the field of 47 players who represent the eight Northwest Conference schools.
“The conditions are just ideal,” McClure said. “And the golf course is in absolutely perfect shape. It was absolutely perfect yesterday, and it’s looking like another glorious day today.
“The guys could go low again today.”
Whitworth’s Lyle Rudnicki and PLU’s Dustin Hegge shared first-round medalist honors with matching 3-under-par 69s. They were just one shot up on a quartet of players — Whitworth’s Oliver Rudnicki, Willamette’s Ryan Kukula, PLU’s Justin Lee and George Fox’s Chris Lumsden — who were logjammed in third place with 2-under-par 70s.
Whitman College freshman Evan Dyar of Spokane was in a group of three players in seventh place at even-par 72. A.J. Taylor of Linfield and Derek Wilson of UPS also matched par during the first round.
“Evan is so steady it’s incredible,” McClure said of his No. 1 player. “And he finished strong, with birdies on three of his last four holes.”
Freshman Daniel Hoffman (Los Altos, Calif.), senior Geoff Burks (Edmonds, Wash.) and sophomore Scott Martin (Escondido, Calif.) turned in Whitman’s other three counting scores. Hoffman shot a 2-over-par 74 and was tied for 12th place, Burks was another stroke back at 75 and tied for 17th, and Martin shot 78 and was tied for 28th.
“Daniel Hoffman had four birdies on the day, and he played even par over the last four holes,” McClure said. “Jeff Burks shot 36 on the front, then got into some problems on the back when he bogeyed three of the last four holes. And Scott Martin shot 41 on the front but found his putting stroke on the back and is getting more and more confident by the hour.”
Sophomore Nathan Fisher (Tacoma, Wash.) and freshman Connor Hood (Bellevue, Wash.) shot non-counting 81s for the Missionaries and junior Jordan Dickson (Spokane) came in with a 94.
“That might have been Connor Hood’s best round so far this year,” McClure said. “Still, he made two double-bogeys and a triple, and his goal today is no more doubles.”
Dickson’s fat round was largely due to a 12 on the 350-yard, par-4 fourth hole when he hit into a sand trap and needed several shots to escape.
“He couldn’t get the ball over the front lip of the trap,” McClure said. “I told him that at some point, you have to turn around and hit it out the other way.”
McClure was pleased with his team.s 299 team total, even though the Missionaries found themselves 12 shots off the pace and in fifth place.
“One of our goals was to break 300, and we did,” McClure said of his team’s best score of the fall season.
Whitworth’s 287 score was five shots better than second-place Pacific Lutheran. University of Puget Sound, at 293, and Linfield, 297, were also ahead of Whitman in the team standings.
Sixth-place Willamette shot 304 Sunday and trailed the Missionaries by just five shots heading into today’s second and final round of the tournament. George Fox carded 313 and Lewis & Clark 338 to round out the field of Northwest Conference rivals.