Whitman men in sixth at Fall Classic but set sites on third-place
RIDGEFIELD, Wash. — The bad news was the Whitman College men’s golf team found itself in sixth place here Saturday at the conclusion for the first round of the Northwest Conference Fall Classic at the Tri-Mountain Golf Course.
The good news after a muddy, soggy, dripping-wet 18 holes of play, the Missionaries lurked just 11 shots behind third-place Pacific Lutheran University, 18 behind second-place University of Puget Sound and they were within 19 of tournament-leading Whitworth University.
“That’s the first thing the guys noticed, how close we are to third place,” Whitman coach Pete McClure said. “And third place was our goal coming into the tournament.”
The Whitman players set a few more goals for themselves heading into Sunday’s second and final round of play. All five are determined to improve on their first-round scores, and a team score under 300 is the No. 1 objective.
“If we can shoot under 300, that should probably move us up,” McClure said.
And since playing conditions aren’t expected to improve markedly, it will be up to each Missionary to handle the weather as best he can.
“It was pouring down and freezing cold, and the course just got wetter and wetter,” McClure said Sunday morning of Saturday’s opening round. “It’s balmy now compared to yesterday, but there’s plenty of rain in the forecast.”
Whitworth’s Stephen Plopper shot an even-par 72 to lead a balanced Whitworth lineup that fashioned a 301 team score for a 1-stroke lead over University of Puget Sound in a heated battle for first place. Jesse Salzwedel carded a 1-over-par 73 for the Pirates and Oliver Rudnicki shot 76 and was a third Whitworth player among the top 10 scores.
Puget Sound’s Derek Wilson also shot 72 and was tied witih Plopper for second place, one shot behind Pacific Lutheran’s Dustin Hegge, who shot 71 and was the only player in the field of 44 to break par in the inclement conditions.
Pacific Lutheran was in third place at 309, followed by George Fox 315, Linfield 318, Whitman 320, Willamette 326, Lewis & Clark 333 and Pacific 337.
Whitman’s best showing came from sophomore Scott Martin (Escondido, Calif.), who turned in a 5-over-par 77 and was tied for 12th place with PLU’s Seth Nickerson.
“He had a good round,” McClure said of Martin’s first-day effort. “He had a chance to go much lower. He was fractionally away from going way low.”
Scott Martin, So.
Whitman freshman Daniel Hoffman (Los Altos, Calif.) shot an 80 and was in a seven-player logjam for 18th place. Freshman Evan Dyar (Spokane) was another stroke back at 81 and in a five-way tie for 25th place and senior Geoff Burks (Edmonds, Wash.), Whitman’s No. 1 player going into the tournament, turned in an 82 and was one of three players tied for 30th place.
“I’m not sure what happened to Geoff,” McClure said. “He was just off and didn’t have any confidence in his swing. He hopes to do better today.
“Daniel was just three over with four holes to go but finished up with a couple of double-bogeys and a bogey,” McClure added. “And Evan Dyar played his usual game, but the conditions were harder and the scores were higher. He knows what he can do and is capable of shooting par at any time.”
Freshman Conner Hood, Whitman’s fifth entry, turned in an 86 and was all alone in 36th place, 14 strokes off the pace.
Although three of Whitman’s five players are freshmen, McClure didn’t think that was a factor in his team’s shaky first round.
“Earlier in the year, maybe so, but not at this point in the season,” McClure said. “Mostly, I think, it was the conditions and the challenges from the weather.
“The course was saturated, There was standing water on several greens and there were many places on the fairways where you got relief from casual water. Our team hasn’t had to play in those kind of muddy conditions very often this fall.
“But the guys are still optimistic. They are very assured that they can shoot better today, and they have set those goals for themselves.”