Western making fifth trip to NCAA II Championships
May 9, 2005
BELLINGHAM, Wash. - The Western Washington University men's golf team will be making its fifth appearance overall and third straight at the NCAA Division II National Championships on May 17-20 (Tuesday thru Friday) at The Club at Savannah Harbor in Savannah, Georgia.
But one thing is different for the Vikings. This time they are going as an automatic qualifier by virtue of winning the school's first West Regional championship.
"Obviously, winning the regional was a huge confidence booster for the team," said Western coach Steve Card (12th year). "I've said all year that this team has incredible potential, and if we come together as a group at the national championship, the sky is the limit."
Western placed ninth at nationals last year as an at-large entry and 11th in 2003. The Vikings also finished 11th in 1999 and tied for sixth in 2000.
Western, ranked a school-best No.3 in the latest Golf Coaches Association of America/Bridgestone/NCAA II Poll, is one of 10 regional champions in the field. The others are Pfeiffer (Atlantic), South Carolina-Aiken (Southeast), Northern Kentucky (Great Lakes), Washburn (Central), Rollins (South), Central Oklahoma (South Central), Minnesota State Mankato (Northwest), Bryant (Northeast) and Indiana PA (East).
Receiving at-large berths were host Armstrong Atlantic State, Georgia College & State, Columbus State, Delta State, Lynn, St. Edward's, Chico State, Cal State Bakersfield, Hawaii Hilo and Saint Martin's.
"It's a long golf tournament," Card said. "It's not something that you can win or lose in the first day or two, but it's certainly something where you can position yourself and have an opportunity to be in the hunt with nine holes to play.
"This year, we have a combination of experience, talent and depth that we haven't had in the past. And all those factors added up together gives us probably our best opportunity that we've had in quite some time to win a national championship. But you can't control what anybody else does, nor can they control what you do. So, we'll just go and do our best and add them up at the end and see how we finish."
South Carolina-Aiken is the defending national champion, taking last year's title by nine strokes over Chico State. The nationally No.1-ranked Pacers have taken team titles in 10 of 12 tournaments this season, and has not lost to a Division II squad.
"They have absolutely dominated since winning the national championship last year," Card said. "They have two of the three top-ranked players in the country, so they're definitely a team to contend with.
"Armstrong Atlantic State is another strong program, and being the host institution I would imagine that they'll be tough. Central Oklahoma has had a great year, and anybody out of our (West) region, which has a number of strong programs, is a contender."
The Vikings are led by junior Tim Feenstra (Lynden), who took medalist honors by one stroke at the West Regional. He has a team-best scoring average of 72.9.
Feenstra is one of three All-Americans on Western's squad. The other two are senior Josh Immordino (Kent/Kentwood), who placed fourth at regionals and has a 73.6 scoring average, and senior Chris Anderson (Oak Harbor/Papillion-LaVista NE), who has a 75.7 scoring average. All were third-team choices, Anderson being named in 2004, Feenstra in 2003 and Immordino in 2002.
Junior Luke Bennett (Bellingham/Sehome) has a 73.0 scoring average. He took medalist honors at the Cal State Bakersfield tournament, shooting a meet record 14-under 202.
Rounding out Western's squad is sophomore Stu Bell (West Vancouver, B.C./West Vancouver), who has a 75.5 scoring average since transferring from NCAA I Gonzaga in January.
The Vikings are capable of posting some outstanding scores, shooting a second-round 14-under-par 274 in rolling to a tourney-record, 28-under performance at the Cal State Bakersfield Invitational. And they shot a 7-under 281, 12 strokes better than any team in the field, in second-day action at regionals.
All five Western players have had rounds in the 60s this season, posting 10 in all. Bennett and Feenstra have had three each and Immordino two. Immordino is making his fourth national appearance, the only Viking besides Craig Welty (1997-2000) ever to do that. As a freshman in 2002, Immordino placed fifth at nationals.
It is the third trip for Anderson, Bennett and Feenstra. Feenstra tied for 16th last year and tied for 24th with Bennett in 2003.
"This group has been together for three-plus years now," said Card. "They know what to expect, and what level of play they need to have to win."
Highlights of the NCAA II Men's Golf Championship will be shown on CBS at 5 p.m. Eastern time, Saturday, July 2.
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