Koppenberg challenging school's scoring average record
March 20, 2008
BELLINGHAM, Wash. -
By Brady Henderson, WWU sports information office
Aggressive and smart. That might be the best way to describe the golf game of Western Washington University's Jake Koppenberg.
Since transferring from the University of Idaho last year, the junior from Everett has taken that approach on the golf course, and the results have been remarkable.
Koppenberg is on pace to break the Vikings' season record for lowest scoring average. After 19 rounds, his average is 71.1, 1.5 strokes better than the standard of 72.6 set in 2003 by Tim Feenstra.
"Jake is a very intelligent golfer," said Western head coach Steve Card. "He's got the power to be aggressive but he's got the smarts to know when to take a shot at something and when not to. You pick your spots and he's certainly a savvy enough player to know when that time is."
In seven tournaments this season, Koppenberg has finished among the top-10 five times. He recorded the lowest round in school history when he shot a 10-under par 62 in October at the Grand Canyon Fall Invitational.
Koppenberg had tied the record in September when he shot a 7-under 64 while placing second at the Saint Martin's Invitational. Last week, he finished ninth at the Southern Cal Tournament in San Juan Capistrano.
"When I start feeling comfortable on the golf course, I just try to fire at pins and make a lot of birdies," Koppenberg said. "I think that keeps me from getting lazy and making small mental errors. It's hard to shoot low scores and be really competitive when you're out there playing scared and playing defensive."
Koppenberg also benefits from having incredible power off the tee, enough to regularly hit 340-yard drives.
"He's one of the longer drivers of the golf ball that I've ever had on my team," said Card, who has coached Western for 15 years. "Most college players can pop it out there close to 300 (yards) but he's got that little extra gear. That certainly changes the game for him. When you can bomb it out there at 340, you're playing a little bit different golf course than everybody else is."
Koppenberg said that his ability to follow up those drives with a good short game could determine his success for the rest of the season.
"The thing I worked on over the winter is inside 100 yards, trying to hit it closer and giving myself shorter putts for birdie," he said. "I think that will be a key factor in me playing really well this spring."
Western, which is ranked seventh nationally in the National Golf Coaches Association/NCAA Division II Top 25, will play two more regular-season tournaments before the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Championship next month. Then it's on to regionals and, hopefully, nationals after that.
"There have been a lot of outstanding players (at Western)," Card said, pointing to 15 mounted plaques commemorating the All-American golfers he has coached. "If Jake were able to have the lowest scoring average in the program's history, I think that would be a pretty significant accomplishment. I hope he pulls it off."
Koppenberg wants the record, but he knows better than to place any added pressure on himself. He also says that team goals of winning a regional or national championship are much higher on the his priority list.
"Before I've gotten into the rut of just focusing on statistics and it kind of gets you away from playing golf," Koppenberg said. "I try not to think about (the record) too much."
Aggressive and smart. That's Jake Koppenberg's game.
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