VICTORIA – Both the University Of Victoria Vikes men’s and women’s golf teams are near the top of the leader board after the first day of action at the A.I.I. Regional Championships in Phoenix, AZ on April 30.
With a trip to the NAIA National Championships still on the line for both of the teams, the men find themselves in a tie for first while the women sit second.
While the Vikes men have been ranked near the top of the NAIA throughout the season, a strong showing at the regionals could assure them a spot at Nationals thanks to an automatic qualifying bid. The Vikes more than lived up to their high ranking on the first day of action and their overall team score of 604 sees them occupying one of the qualifying spots through two of the three rounds that the team will play.
“They played pretty well and you can’t be displeased with how they stand heading into tomorrow,” said Vikes head coach Justin Clews. “You want to be at the top where we are. The guys still left a lot out there though, the one negative from today is that we didn’t finish our rounds very well both in the morning and the afternoon.”
With all five of their members situated in the top-35, the Vikes find themselves tied with Our Lady of the Lake University for first-place atop a crowded leader board. Arizona Christian University is just one spot behind the two leaders and fourth-place Houston-Victoria is knocking on the door with a score of 608.
“A lot more positives than negatives on the day, the guys are grinding pretty hard,” said Clews. “The scores were a lot higher in the afternoon when the wind picked up. The pin placements were tough today so if you weren’t precise on your approach shots, it was not easy to bounce back.
Individually, Mike Griffin and Lawren Rowe lead the way for the Vikes with scores of 146 and 147 respectively, good enough for second and third. That those two find themselves near the top of the leaderboard is no surprise. Earlier in the day, the two standouts were both named semifinalists for the NAIA Jack Nicklaus National Player of the Year Award.
“Pleased with those two, they are pretty reliable and showed that today in terms of their individual play,” said Clews on his two front-runners. “Their announcement as semifinalists is a nice gesture in terms of recognizing their strong play this year.”
The Vikes women meanwhile, find themselves trailing only an extremely strong UBC squad after their opening day efforts were good enough for a team score of 319.
“Pretty happy with how they played, a little disappointed in the finish where they had some putting issues late”, said Clews. “They hit the ball well enough this afternoon where they should be around the lead.”
Currently sitting nine strokes back of the T-Birds, the Vikes won’t have to worry about anybody in their rearview mirror as they try to mount a second day charge for the lead. They are a full 25 shots ahead of third-place Hope International University.
“They hit it well today, but with them playing in the afternoon the strong wind messed up their round to make it a little bit tougher,” said Clews.
All five of the Vikes women sit comfortably in the top-20. Quinn Fitzgerald and Cadence Hellmann lead the way in third and fourth place, while Melanie Murchison, Nicole Gargarella and Rhiannon Jonesearned themselves spots of seventh, 10th and 17th.
The final day of action from the Wigwam golf course in Phoenix will get underway tomorrow with the men hitting the links sometime between 7 and 10 a.m. followed by the women who will start between 9:30 and 11 a.m.