Aug. 31, 2005
BELLINGHAM, Wash. -
To follow up on its outstanding 2004-05 season, the Western Washington University men's golf team must weather the departure of two All-Americans lost to graduation.
Fortunately, Western has two more All-Americans still in the fold.
The Vikings won the NCAA Division II West Regional tournament and placed ninth at the national tournament last season behind the quartet of Tim Feenstra, Luke Bennett, Josh Immordino and Chris Anderson.
Feenstra and Bennett, both three-year letter winners, are back for their senior seasons, and their presence has head coach Steve Card optimistic about the upcoming year.
"We want to get back to the national championship," Card said. "That's our number one goal."
Card said Feenstra and Bennett provide leadership and tournament-tested experience.
"Tim and Luke have been to three straight national championships and know the level of golf that you need to play," Card said. "They know the level of golf of the other teams that finished in front of us last year, and we know that we're capable of playing with those teams."
Feenstra (Lynden) is a familiar face in the world of NCAA II golf. He was the NCAA II Freshman of the Year and a third-team Golf Coaches Association of America All-American in 2002-03. This past season, he received first-team All-America honors while leading the Vikings with a 72.3 scoring average.
Feenstra's success also carried over into the 2005 postseason, when he won medalist honors at the West Regional tournament, shooting a 1-under-par 71 in the final round. At nationals, he shot a 5-over-par 289 and placed tenth, six spots better than his 2004 finish.
"Tim has played a lot of golf tournaments, and he's familiar with a lot of the courses that we play on," Card said. "He's going to be able to bring a lot of experience and leadership to the table."
Bennett (Bellingham/Sehome) was a third-team All-American in 2005. He placed 20th at nationals and finished the season with a 73.0 scoring average. Bennett's best performance came at the Cal State Bakersfield Men's Golf Spring Invitational, when he fired a tournament-record 14-under-par to take medalist honors.
"Luke has been a very consistent player for us who has also shown some moments of brilliance," Card said. "Luke has all the ability in the world to be (an elite) player, and I think he's also going to be feeding off of three years of experience."
In addition to Feenstra and Bennett, Western has another returnee who has national experience. Sophomore Sean Packer (Sumner/Auburn Riverside) competed at the 2004 nationals and had a 77.1 scoring average as a true freshman but redshirted last season to improve his game and to take advantage of the Vikings' deep roster.
"I think the redshirt year was a good one for him to continue to grow as a player and mature," Card said. "I really think that he's going to be a very consistent, solid player who we can depend on."
After the top three, the Vikings' lineup becomes less clear. Card said four players will battle for the remaining two spots.
One of that foursome is true freshman Tommy Bullock from Kamiak High School in Mukilteo. As a high school junior, Bullock finished tied for second place at the Class 4A state championships.
"I think his potential is great, and I think he's got a swagger," Card said. "That's something a true freshman needs if they want to be an impact player. Tommy possesses that swagger, and you can't teach that."
Bullock will compete against sophomore Sam Pauley (Everett/Kamiak/Everett CC), redshirt freshman Kevin Lim (Woodinville), and senior Brett Ballman (Tacoma/Franklin Pierce). Pauley averaged 78.0 strokes in four rounds last year, and Ballman averaged 80.0 strokes in four rounds last season after posting a 75.5 average in eight rounds the previous year.
"They certainly have the ability to play well, but it's just a matter of whether or not they get it done," he said.
Despite their inexperience in the fourth and fifth spots, Card said Western is in a good position to again challenge for the top spot in the West Region.
"We've had pretty much the same four or five guys traveling week in and week out for the past three years, and we don't have that this season," he said. "But I think a lot of the schools in the West Region are going through that transition."
The Vikings have one thing that other teams don't, however - the one-two punch of Feenstra and Bennett.
"There are programs in this region with good players, but to the best of my knowledge, there aren't any that have two guys who were All-Americans," Card said.