GNAC Men's Golf Preview

WWUVIKINGSDOTCOM Mark Strickland
WWUVIKINGSDOTCOM
Mark Strickland
WWUVIKINGSDOTCOM

Aug 30, 2013

PORTLAND, Ore. - Western Washington is established as a perennial powerhouse, most recently supported by its No.9 national ranking in the 2013-14 Golf World/Nike Golf Division II preseason coaches' poll. The Vikings placed reached the semifinals at last season's NCAA Division II championship, and senior Jake Webb and freshman Kyle Schrader earned Golf Coaches Association of America all-American honors in 2012-13.

Six-time GNAC Coach of the Year Steve Card has stepped in as the interim athletic director at WWU, thus passing off the golf coaching duties to Luke Bennett.

The Vikings lose Webb and two other all-GNAC players in Evan Needham (first team) and Sandy Vaughan (second team), but return a solid mix of young talent and veteran leaders.

Mark Strickland (74.2 average in 38 rounds in 2012-13) returns after earning first-team all-GNAC honors in 2012-13. As a sophomore, he made par in 15-of-38 rounds and led the Vikings with eight top-10 finishes.

Also back for WWU is Schrader (76.0/29), who notched a first place finish and posted a low round score of 66, second only to Webb's 65 a year ago.

WWU led the GNAC with a 297.5 average over 38 rounds and Viking individual golfers combined to win five total events in 2012-13.

Montana State Billings' Gage Huft (74.1/31) burst onto the scene as a sophomore in 2012-13, making par in nine rounds while leading the conference with four wins.

Huft leads a strong MSU Billings squad that returns honorable mention all-GNAC selection Marcus Drange (76.9/24), but loses two-time all-GNAC pick Eric Gravbrot.

The Yellowjackets finished third in the conference scoring average category at a clip of 301.5 in 27 rounds, with a fourth-place finish in the GNAC tournament.

Head coach Shawn O'Brien enters his fifth year at the helm, having led 14 individuals to victories and 42 total to top-five finishes on the men's and women's side combined.

Saint Martin's made a strong showing in 2012-13 with a second-place finish at the GNAC championships, but the Saints head into the 2013-14 season having suffered several key departures.

Brandon Moore, who led the squad with 33 rounds - six of them at par - and posted a scoring average of 75.2 with three top-10 finishes will not return in 2013-14.

Another loss is Connor Miele, who led the squad with an average score of 74.9 over 18 rounds in 2012-13.

Second-team all-GNAC selection Ben Fosnick (75.1/24) returns to a Saints team that finished just behind WWU in scoring average with a mark of 298.9 in 28 rounds in 2012-13.

Ryan Pickthorn (75.3/21) is back for the Saints in 2013-14 after posting a low round score of 69 and two top-five finishes last year.

Also returning is junior Patrick Whealdon (76.1/15) who notched three top-10 finishes in 2012-13, and Kevin Cullen (76.0/12) who shot a low round of 71 and scored one of the Saints two individual wins on the year.

Simon Fraser returns John Mlikotic (74.9/21), who placed third at the GNAC championships in 2013 with a score of 215 that was just two strokes off of Webb's championship figure. Michael Belle (75.3/21) also returns for the Clan after notching four par rounds and one top-five finish a season ago.

With Bret Thompson (74.9/24) back in 2013-14, SFU returns a player who led the team in rounds (24), par rounds (5) and top-five finishes (2).

The Clan posted a scoring average of 301.8 over two dozen rounds in 2012-13, and finished in third place at the GNAC championships with a score of 891.

Two-year veteran Nick Hardy (76.4/26) returns for Northwest Nazarene, which finished last in the GNAC with a scoring average of 310.6 in 26 rounds.

Senior Tom Hanacek (78.0/11) and junior Justin McAfee (78.4/23) will help anchor the Crusaders' squad under seasoned head coach Craig Stensgaard (15th season).

SCHEDULE: The 2013-14 fall season kicks off Sept. 11 with NNU facing the College of Idaho in a dual match. Montana State Billings hosts the annual Yellowjacket Fall Invitational Sept. 12-13, and the Western Washington Invitational, featuring all five GNAC squads, is slated for Sept. 23-24.