Sept. 22, 2010
BELLINGHAM, Wash. -
The Western Washington University men's golf team will rely on unprecedented depth as it seeks to reach the NCAA Division II National Tournament after a two-year absence.
Eight players who saw action last season return for the Vikings, who won the Great Northwest Athletic Conference championship for the third consecutive year and were ranked No.20 in the final Golf Coaches Association of America NCAA II Top 25. Two other players with extensive experience redshirted last year.
"It's going to be a battle to find the top five every week," said Western coach Steve Card (18th year). "In theory, we should always be taking five guys who are playing well to every tournament. It's exciting, I'm looking forward to it."
Leading the way for Western is senior Xavier Dailly (Burlington/Burlington-Edson), who had a 72.3 stroke average, third-best in school history, and finished in the top 10 in seven tournaments, winning the GNAC championship. Dailly was GNAC Player of the Year, a West Region all-star, and an honorable mention GCAA Ping All-American.
"Maybe he hasn't won as many events as some of our past great players, but overall, if you look at what he accomplished last year, he's right there with them," said Card. "If he'd been at the national tournament and played well, he could have been a first-team all-American."
Also back after competing in the regional meet are senior Patrick Boag (Yakima/Eisenhower) and juniors Nick Varelia (Kent/Kentwood) and Brian Barhanovich (Everett). Boag was Western's only national participant last year, earning the berth with a seventh-place finish in the regional tourney. Varelia, a first-team all-GNAC selection and a two-time regional participant, was second on the team in stroke average at 74.2 and had a second-place finish at the Grand Canyon Fall Invitational. Barhanovich had a 74.6 average.
Senior Sam Ayotte (Corvallis, OR/Cresent Valley), a second-team all-GNAC pick, was slated to be part of the regional team, but missed out due to a back injury. Junior Jake Webb (Issaquah/Skyline) has also seen extensive action over the last two years, being part of the regional squad in 2009.
Back after redshirting last year are junior Thomas Jun (Federal Way/Todd Beamer) and sophomore Sandy Vaughn (Seattle/O'Dea). Jun was a national competitor in 2007-08, and was Western's No.2 player in scoring average (74.8) the following season, claiming medalist honors at the WWU Invitational. Vaughn, who won the North Bellingham Amateur this summer, played in five tournaments as a freshman in 2008-09.
A key addition is sophomore Dylan Goodwin (Mukilteo/Kamiak), a transfer from NCAA I Washington. Another newcomer is freshman Mark Strickland (Mukilteo/Kamiak), who was fourth in the high school Class 4A State Championship last spring.
Rounding out the roster are junior Adam Brisben (Marysville/Lakewood), redshirt freshman Craig Crawford (Stanwood/Highland Christian), and sophomore Evan Needham (Lynden/Meridian).
The Viking program has also received a boost from the addition of two assistant coaches - Craig Welty and Chris Killmer. Welty was a four-time national tournament performer for Western, and Killmer had an accomplished collegiate career at Washington.
"They can help us freshen things up with new ideas," said Card. "That can help us in those tough, short days in January and February."
Card said getting through the winter prepared for spring competition is important for Western's success.
"We need to stay sharp and crisp through the winter and maintain a high level of play," said Card. "Last year, we played well in the fall. But we started slow in the spring, lost confidence because of it and our play gradually declined.
Consistent high performance is crucial in the West Region, which along with the South is annually one of the two toughest regions in NCAA II. In most years, four teams from the West reach the national tournament.
"You take a day of a tournament off in this region, you're going to get lapped," said Card. "I think we have one of the strongest teams we've had, but I fully expect that the rest of the region has improved as well."
Western opens its season this Friday and Saturday at the Saint Martin's Invitational. On the following Monday and Tuesday, the Vikings host the 39th annual WWU Invitational at the Bellingham Golf and Country Club. The 15-team tournament includes Academy of Art, Cal State East Bay, Cal State Monterey Bay, Cal State Stanislaus, UC San Diego, Chico State, Dixie State, Grand Canyon, Hawaii Hilo, Montana State Billings, Northwest Nazarene, Saint Martin's Simon Fraser, Sonoma State and WWU.