By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
BANKS, Ore. -- A strong finish by the Willamette University men's golf team allowed the Bearcats to win the team championship at the Northwest Conference Fall Classic with a 36-hole score of 18-under par as the tournament ended at the Quail Valley Golf Course on Sunday, Oct. 10. Austin Davis (Sr., Culver City, CA/Culver City HS) of Willamette defeated teammate Andrew Kibbee (Sr., Kenmore, WA/Bothell HS) on the first playoff hole to win first place, while Kibbee took second place.
Davis and Kibbee tied for the lead through regulation play at 7-under par 137. The playoff for medalist honors began on the 10th hole.
"The playoff was a lot of fun," Willamette Head Men's Golf Coach Patrick Daugherty said. "These guys have pushed each other for four years now and have had a few of these 1v1 situations, but never in a tournament. The playoff was sudden death. There were no smiles after teeing off in a downpour of a rain shower." On the second shot, Daugherty recalled that both golfers "came up about 10 yards short of the green. He added that on the ensuing shot "Kibbee's chip was about six feet short of the pin. Austin played next and his chip climbed to about three feet from the hole. Kibbee nearly made his birdie attempt, just hitting the lip of the cup, and tapped in for a 5. Austin sank his fourth shot for a birdie to win the playoff."
The Bearcats began the day at 9-under par with a three-stroke lead over Whitworth University. Midway through the round, the Pirates took the lead for several holes, but Willamette rallied to regain the lead and then pulled away. Over the final four holes, the five members of Willamette's team earned nine birdies and one bogey. With four of the five scores counting toward the team total, Willamette lowered its score for the tournament to 18-under par in the final standings.
Willamette ended the competition with a winning score of 558 on back-to-back rounds of 9-under par 279. The Bearcats held a three-stroke lead late in the round, but the strong finish by Willamette increased the margin of victory to nine strokes. Whitworth took second place at 567 after carding rounds of 282 and 285. Whitman College had a strong second day on its way to maintaining third place at 567. The Blues shot 294 in the first round and 281 in the second round.
George Fox University earned fourth place at 580 (296-284), with Pacific Lutheran University in fifth place at 582 (298-284), Linfield University in sixth at 594 (295-299), the University of Puget Sound in seventh at 602 (304-298), Lewis & Clark College in eighth at 611 (303-308), and Pacific University in ninth at 614 (308-306).
"The momentum has been building," Daugherty noted. "If you look at the scores from the Division III Preview (Sept. 19-21) every week since, you'll see it. I knew they could do something special. To break a team/school record and possibly set the conference record for lowest score (-18) at an NWC event is special."
The Bearcats have won three consecutive tournaments, including the Linfield Fall Invitational and the George Fox University Invitational prior to the win this weekend. "We really feel like these are such good team wins that it continues to build our confidence," Daugherty commented. "It's not just the guys 1 through 5 either. It's 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 showing up every day, working hard, and pushing us all to be better. It was great to have teammates out there this weekend rooting on the guys."
Due to the shotgun start that began the day, the final four holes for Davis and Kibbee were the 15th through the 18th holes, while Alex Weirth (Sr., Port Orchard, WA/Crosspoint Academy) and Jack McMullin (So., Seattle, WA/Roosevelt HS) finished from the 16th through the 1st hole, and Paxton Jones (Fy., Wellington, NZ/Scots College) ended from the 17th hole through the 2nd. Over those four holes, Davis was minus-3 and Weirth was minus-2, while Kibbee, McMullin, and Jones each shot minus-1.
"I shake my head at how this team finishes," Daugherty said. "They were minus-8 collectively on the last four holes. that's outstanding."
Davis recorded his score of 137 by carding rounds of 4-under par 68 and 3-under par 69. Kibbee reached 137 with a 3-under 69 in the first round followed by a 4-under 68 over the final 18 holes. Davis and Kibbee were followed on the individual leaderboard by a two-way tie for third place. The tie involved Alex Knox of Whitman and Sam Pauly of Whitworth, both at 139. Knox shot 74-65 and Pauley shot 68-71.
Caleb Belton of Whitworth held fifth place with back-to-back scores of 70 for an overall score of 140. Weirth of Willamette, Oliver Nordberg of Whitworth, and Trevor Price from Linfield tied for sixth place at 141. Weirth and Nordberg each shot 71-70, while Price registered scores of 72 and 69. A tie for ninth place at 142 included Joshua Clogston from Pacific Lutheran (72-70), Max Ray-Keil of Whitman (70-72), and Connor Siebert from Puget Sound (71-71).
McMullin of Willamette finished in 16th place with an overall score of 145 (71-74). Jones from Willamette tied for 17th at 146 after shooting 74 in the first round and even-par 72 in the second round.
The NWC Fall Classic is the first of three tournaments played each year to determine the NWC team champion in men's golf. The NWC Fall Classic and the NWC Spring Classic are each worth one-fourth of the title, while the NWC Tournament is worth one-half of the title. Willamette has the early lead in the point standings with 8 points. Whitworth is second at 7 points, followed by Whitman at 6, George Fox with 5, Pacific Lutheran with 4, Linfield at 3, Puget Sound at 2, and Lewis & Clark with 1 point.
Willamette will compete in the Bushnell Invitational on Sunday, Oct. 17 and Monday, Oct. 18. The tournament will be played at the Emerald Valley Golf Club in Creswell, Oregon.