by Sena Hughes
The Whitworth men’s golf team began spring competition last weekend on the west side of the state. The men finished fourth of four Thursday and Friday at the Puget Sound Logger Invitational in Tacoma. Saturday and Sunday the Pirates competed in Dupont, at the Pacific Lutheran University Invitational, in which they finished fourth of eight.
“I think that for not being able to play throughout the winter because of weather conditions, we did acceptable,” sophomore Jesse Salzwedel said. “It wasn’t really what we wanted, but we don’t have [many] means to practice our short game.”
The team’s main competition right now is the weather. Head coach Warren Friedrichs emphasized the frustration of not being able to play outside in Spokane, which was reflected in last weekend’s performance.
“It was good to get out of Spokane and get in some competition,” Friedrichs said. “If you don’t get out of town and play then you don’t get to play.”
The Bucs struggled at the beginning of the week- end. After Thursday’s competition, they were in third place behind UPS and PLU, but a weaker performance on Friday by Whitworth allowed North Idaho College to claim the third place prize, leaving the Bucs in the fourth and final place. Whitworth finished with a final score of 643. Host team UPS won the tournament with a score of 613.
“It was just our first time outside playing in a tournament,” Friedrichs said. “The first day was OK, the second day was not as good.”
Salzwedel went as far as to say that Whitworth’s performance on Friday was “embarrassing.”
“You shouldn’t expect to win a tournament when you finish like that,” Salzwedel said.
Salzwedel led the Pirates both Thursday and Friday, finishing in ninth place overall with a final score of 156. Sophomores Saul Martinez and Stephen Plopper finished in 12th and 15th, respectively.
Part of the problem with Whitworth’s lack of practice out on the course is the deficit it creates in the short game, namely putting.
“It just takes practice and that’s how you score,” Friedrichs said.
It was a quick turnaround into Saturday as Whitworth headed just a few miles up the road for an- other 36 holes of competition. The Bucs were among seven Northwest Conference teams competing in the tournament. The only non-NWC team was North Idaho.
“There’s not much time to adjust to two different courses,” Friedrichs said. “We didn’t have much practice time at either one.”
Whitworth came out in good shape Saturday, finishing 16 over par and just four strokes behind tournament leader Linfield College. Plopper and Salzwedel were both one stroke behind the tournament leader at the end of Saturday.
“We played really well the first day,” Salzwedel said. “Our team hit the ball probably the best out of anybody, but once again we struggled greatly with putting.”
High winds picked up quite a bit on Sunday, causing more challenges for the Bucs. Again, the lack of practice the team has had outside of the Whitworth Fieldhouse this spring showed.
Whitworth finished fourth with a final score of 625, falling behind tournament-winner Linfield, as well as PLU and North Idaho. Salzwedel once again led the Pirates, tying for second with an opportunity to win the tournament on hole 18.
“Individually my goal for the spring is to win a tournament and I had that chance,” Salzwedel said. “With two holes left to play I was tied for the lead. I think second place is definitely bittersweet but definitely gives me [incentive] to work harder and win one or two meets this spring.”
Friedrichs commended Salzwedel on his solid play for the Bucs this weekend.
With a full several weeks sneaking up on them, Friedrichs does not deny the need to get out and play on a course. The team will travel to Tucson, Ariz.. over Spring Break for a couple tournaments and outdoor practice would be ideal before then.
“Hopefully we’ll get courses opening in a week, but we’ll take what we can get,” Friedrichs said.
After Spring Break, the Pirates get a few rounds of NWC play before the NWC championships April 21 and 22.
“We’re anxious for the next month,” Friedrichs said. “As soon as we can get on the course, everything happens quickly.”
Friedrichs wasn’t the only one excited to see the spring season underway. Though this weekend didn’t go as well as expected for Whitworth, Salzwedel has firm confidence in his team.
“I think Whitworth has a great chance of upsetting the field if we play to our full potential,” Salzwedel said. “We’re a very talented team and can beat any one in the conference.”
Contact Sena Hughes at email@example.com.