MISSOULA, Mont. – Both Lewis-Clark State College golf teams claimed Frontier Conference Championship crowns at the Larchmont Golf Course on Tuesday. With the titles the Warriors earn automatic bids to the NAIA National Championships.
The No. 16 LCSC women (pictured left) finished with a two-day, 54-hole total of 961 and cruised to a 24 stroke win, while the men (pictured below) fought off Carroll College for a narrow two stroke victory, 895 to 897.
“We won under some really tough, tough conditions today. Real windy and very cold,” said LCSC head coach Paul Thompson. “We haven’t gone (to nationals) in a couple years so it’ll be nice to go back.”
The men’s national championship will be held on May 14-17 in Salem, Ore., while the women’s will play out on May 21-24 in Lincoln, Neb. The LCSC men and women will be making their fifth and seventh appearances, respectively.
With the team last appearing in 2011, a couple members of the men’s squad know what it’s like to play at a national championship; however, it’ll be a completely new experience for all members of the women’s team which hasn’t qualified since 2009.
“It’s been a goal all of my college career, so to finally make it is definitely a big deal,” said Heather Bruce, a redshirt junior from Enterprise, Ore. “We definitely want to go there and make a big splash.”
Bruce shot a 79 on Tuesday and finished with a 241, one stroke behind team leader Idah Whisenant who had an 80 on Tuesday and led the Warriors at 240. Both Bruce and Whisenant are four-year players who began at LCSC during the 2009-10 season.
“My long game was struggling, but my putting was really good and that’s what saved me,” said Whisenant, a redshirt junior from Lewiston, Idaho.
Thompson pointed to depth as being a key factor to the success of the women’s team as there was only a six stroke difference between the team’s high and low scores. Brooke Dagner finished third at 244 and Karina Davila fourth at 246.
“They’re just playing good, solid golf,” Thompson said. “We’re pretty strong one through five, and we thought we would do well this year, but we didn’t know we’d do as well as we have.”
Thompson, who said it began snowing with three or four holes remaining, was particularly pleased with how well the team performed despite the wet, cold, and windy conditions.
“It was freezing. I wore about five layers today, and that can make your swing a little limited,” said Bruce. “But when a couple of us had a bad round, the others would just pick up the slack. It was a complete team effort.”
The Warrior men’s team relied on its depth as well as it warded off a surging Carroll team.
Senior Jason Molner shot a 75 on Tuesday to lead the team with a 222, Rylee Iacolucci had a 223, Joel Christensen a 227, and Drew Reinland shot the team’s best round of the day, 73, to finish at 228.
Thompson said that the men’s tournament was so close that it came down to the final hole where Reinland, playing in LCSC’s No. 5 position, sunk a birdie while his playing partner from Carroll ended up with a bogey.
“It really helps when you have (numbers) one through five that can score under par,” said Thompson. “It proved to be the difference today.”