by Connor Soudani
The men’s golf team concluded a tough tournament outing this weekend to finish first in the conference at the Northwest Conference Fall Classic at the Tri-Mountain Golf Course.
After the first day of competition, Whitworth led the University of Puget Sound by one stroke with a score of 301. On the second day, Whitworth pulled ahead to beat Puget Sound by 19 strokes with a second round score of 286.
“We pretty much knew it was going to be the usual top five teams for us to compete with,” head coach Warren Friedrichs said. “All in all, everybody played very well.”
Junior Jesse Salzwedel shot 73, 70 to finish first for the men and second overall in the conference. Junior Stephen Plopper and freshman Lyle Rudnicki both finished tied for second overall for the Pirates and tied for fifth overall, with Plopper shooting 72, 75 and Rudnicki shooting 80, 67. Lyle Rudnicki’s second round score of 67 ended up being the best individual round of the tournament.
Freshman Oliver Rudnicki tied for tenth overall shooting 76, 74 and Freshman Samson Martinez rounded out the scoring for the men’s team shooting 80, 79.
The first day of the tournament was met with heavy rain, but the second day was calmer .
“The rain held off until the last three holes this time around, and thus, our scores ended up being much better,” Friedrichs said.
Jesse Salzwedel had a strong performance in returning to the lineup for the first time since the Lewiston Triangular on Sept. 15. However, Friedrichs says that he wasn’t surprised with Salzwedel’s performance.
“He’s been like that, always a great tournament player,” Friedrichs said.
Salzwedel indicated that the time off would have been a problem, except for a number of reasons.
“It wasn’t as different [coming back] as I thought it would be,” Salzwedel said. “I’d been in conference tournaments before in high positions so I was able to find my groove early on.”
His presence was also felt by his teammates who enjoyed his veteran leadership.
“Jesse did a good job of motivating us this weekend,” Lyle Rudnicki said. “He gave us a pep talk before the match that made us feel a lot better.”
However, Salzwedel was not the only one who made an impact that day. The three freshmen on the Whitworth team came in and played resiliently.
“It was good to see that when one round wasn’t so good, they could come back and play better in the next,” Friedrichs said. “We really needed everybody today and we got them.”
Thus, the freshmen had strong and crucial play down the stretch that heavily contributed to the team win.
“I was super stoked to see the maturity of these freshmen after the first round,” Salzwedel said. “They stepped up and played really great in the second round to contribute to a phenomenal team score.”
Going into competition this weekend, with five teams having a shot at the title, the Pirates stayed focused on what they could control.
“We needed to play how we were capable of playing,” Lyle Rudnicki said. “We knew that we could go out there and win the tournament.”
Despite the individual confidence of the players, team play really governed their mindset going in.
“It wasn’t all about one person shooting well, it was about everyone contributing and putting up a good score when they were needed most,” Lyle Rudnicki said.
As the men’s team concludes the fall season with the conference championship, the men will have an advantage in points as they approach the spring season with the rest of the conference teams.
“To win like we did was good,” Friedrichs said. “Now we have to turn our attention to the spring classic.”
“Mentally, this is huge for us,” Lyle Rudnicki said. “As freshmen, winning our first NWC Fall Classic gives us a lot of confidence going forward.”
“We need to remain patient now. Just because we won, doesn’t mean we’re going to nationals,” Salzwedel said. “We just have to keep an optimistic attitude and trust that things will come out the way they’re supposed to.”
The Whitworth men’s team will continue competition in the spring.
Contact Connor Soudani at firstname.lastname@example.org.