Women’s golf looks to the top

Tyler Hurlburt

The Whitman College women’s golf team made history on Sunday, April 3 at the Northwest Conference Spring Classic golf tournament when the young but talented women hit their way to the school’s first ever victory in one of the three NWC tournament majors. The team’s performance puts them in a great position to win the conference championship.

First-year Catelyn Webber is very proud of the team’s accomplishments.

“It felt amazing to be able to clinch our first ever win, and the school’s first win,” Webber said. “Just to be a part of Whitman’s history feels incredible.”

Leading first-year golfer Katie Zijacek practices her drive. Photo Credit: Ethan Parrish

The Missionaries, who trailed George Fox University by one stroke after the first day of competition, bettered the Bruins by two strokes on Sunday to give them a one stroke win, 679-680. Whitworth University came in third with 718. First-year golfer Katie Zajicek earned top tournament honors, shooting six strokes lower than her nearest opponent.

This victory, along with a fourth place finish at the NWC Fall Classic, lands Whitman in a tie for second place in the conference standings with 11 points. George Fox is in the lead with 13. As the last of the three major tournaments, the NWC Championship counts for double the points of each of the first two, meaning that with a strong performance Whitman could win the conference title : and an automatic berth to nationals. A second place conference finish could also earn the team a nationals spot by placing them in contention for an at-large bid, which Whitworth received last year.

The team’s success comes while only having six women on the roster: two sophomores and four first-years. Even though the team is small, it has grown from where it was only a couple of years ago.

Sophomore Caitlin Holland feels that despite the team’s modest roster, they are still competitive with the best teams in the conference.

“There wasn’t a full roster until last year,” Holland said. “For being such a young team, we have a good chance of getting second or winning [the conference].”

The team has also been able to learn from their struggles at tournaments earlier in the season. Whitman lost its lead at the SoCal Dutch Invitational on March 15 by shooting 22 strokes worse on the second day of the tournament.

First-year Elaine Whaley feels that the team used that performance as a learning experience.

“California really taught us how to finish a tournament when you are in the lead, or extremely close,” Whaley said. “The tournament also taught us how to perform under pressure, which was definitely helpful in the Spring Classic.”

The fact that the team is so small provides some very strong advantages : it fosters an extremely tight-knit atmosphere where the women can hold each other accountable.

“We are all really close,” Holland said. “Everybody came here to play golf ,which is nice because when we do well, everybody is really, genuinely happy, and when we do poorly, everybody can comfort each other because we have all been there before.”

Webber looks to this team support as playing a role in their win at the Spring Classic.

“I think this tournament we really came together as a team and we all truly saw that we were capable of taking first,” Webber said. “We were there for each other and really supported each other.”

The Whitman women next play on Saturday, April 9 at the Whitman Women’s Golf Invitational at Columbia Point Golf Course in Richland, Wash.