Tale of the Weekend
VICTORIA – It’s been called the toughest three-hole stretch in all of golf. Holes 15, 16 and 17 of the PGA National course have earned themselves the menacing nickname of the Bear Trap for the way that they can disrupt the rounds of some of the best golfers in the world. That will be the test facing the University of Victoria women’s golf team when they compete at the NAIA National Championships in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. on May 22-25.
The Vikes booked their ticket to the tournament as the sixth of 11 at-large qualifiers to make the cut, alongside 19 other teams that earned an automatic-qualifying berth at their respective conference championships.
Getting their tournament underway at 10:30 a.m. PDT, the Vikes, who finished 18th in the final NAIA Coaches’ Top-25 Poll of the season, are paired with Lindsey Wilson University (23) and Olivet Nazarene who were unranked but won their conference tournament to qualify.
The team finished the season playing some of their best golf of the season, including a strong showing at the A.I.I. Regional Championship that took place Apr. 30-May 1.
All five of their members finished in the top-11 at those regional championships, as the Vikes wrapped up play eight shots behind the conference champion UBC Thunderbirds.
Coming into the tournament, the Vikes boast a balanced roster with all five of their members posting great scores at different times throughout the season.
Cadence Hellmann has three top-10 finishes in 2017-18 to her credit, including a second-place finish at the A.I.I. Regional Championship in the Vikes last tournament.
Tying with Hellmann at those championships was Quinn Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald, a third-year from Calgary, has competed in only five tournaments this season but has finished in the top-30 at all five of those events.
Nicole Gargarella, originally from Toronto, has four top-20 finishes in 2017-18, including a seventh-place result at the Vikes Shootout and an eight-place finish at the A.I.I. Regional Championship.
The best finish of the season for Rhiannon Jones came in the Vikes Shootout where the native of Kelowna, B.C. finished third.
Rounding out the Vikes squad is Melanie Murchison, who has three top-20 finishes on the season.
The Vikes are returning to the NAIA National Championship for the 11th time in the past 12 seasons. Their best finish at the event is ninth, a feat they accomplished in both 2009 and 2010
David Rands, Vikes assistant coach
“This is an incredible life experience for the team to be playing a PGA tour golf course. The practice facility and resort are second to none.”
“Our goal was at the start of the year to get to nationals and that alone is a great accomplishment. Without our great play in the spring season and regionals we wouldn’t be there.”
“Now that we are there we have to reassess our goal. If we play the way we are capable of, I believe we can be a factor.”