The University of the Fraser Valley men’s golf team staged a massive final-round rally on Friday at the PING CCAA Golf National Championships to earn the bronze medal.
Playing at their home course, Chilliwack Golf Club, the Cascades men came into the day in seventh place, 17 strokes back of the front-running Niagara College Knights and eight strokes back of a podium position.
But they caught fire on Friday, combining for the best team score of the day – a two-under 286. That boosted them into third place with a cumulative three-round total of 873, one stroke better than the Georgian Grizzlies (874).
It’s the seventh time in nine years that the UFV golf program has placed at least one team on the podium at CCAA nationals, and in light of how far back they were to start the day, bronze felt pretty sweet.
“There’s good ways and bad ways to come in third place, and this was definitely a great way to get third,” Cascades head coach Chris Bertram said. “I’m really proud of the team coming up with the best score of the final day of the tournament.
“We had a tall task today. We said that if we did everything we needed to do, third was in sight. And you know, they stepped up. They played great, and they earned it.”
Leading the way for the Cascades, as usual, was fourth-year standout Connor O’Dell. The two-time CCAA All-Canadian from Maple Ridge, B.C. carded a two-under 70 on Friday – one of the best individual rounds of the day. That boosted him up the leaderboard into a tie for sixth place at -1 for the tournament, and he earned all-star honours as a top-six finisher.
O’Dell was also the male recipient of the Fair Play Award, in recognition of his sportsmanship throughout the week.
“That summarizes Connor O’Dell,” Bertram said. “He’s a great player, he’s a great person to play golf with, and it’s great to see him recognized. Everyone who plays with him talks about how much of a gentleman he is on the golf course. He makes our program and our university very proud.”
Connor McLellan finished tied for 13th overall at +2 for the tourney, after firing a one-over 73 on Friday. Zach Olson shot a tidy one-under 71 to finish tied for 20th, while Nathan Bahnman (+2 on Friday, +9 for the tourney, T32) and Cody Stewart (even par on Friday, +10 for the tourney, T38) also contributed to the comeback.
The Camosun Chargers won the men’s team championship with a cumulative 860 strokes, and the Niagara Knights (868) took second.
Étienne Papineau of the Champlain St. Lawrence Lions was the men’s individual champ at -10 for the tourney. Silver and bronze went to Stephen Brown of the Lambton Lions (-8) and Matt Lemay of the Georgian Grizzlies (-7).
On the women’s side, the Cascades authored their best team score of the week, 160, to move up from sixth place into a tie for fourth with 514 strokes over the three rounds. The Humber Hawks (473), UBC Okanagan Heat (481) and Georgian Grizzlies (491) won the women’s team gold, silver and bronze medals, respectively.
Carolyn Lee of UBC Okanagan crushed the field by eight strokes to win the women’s individual title at +13. Katie Griffiths of the Red Deer Queens (+21) and Humber’s Sonia Nagindas (+22) took silver and bronze.
Jennifer Kell was the top individual finisher for the UFV women – she ended up 11th overall at +38 for the tourney. PacWest champ Hannah Dirksen posted her best round of the week on Friday (a seven-over 79) to move up to 14th place at +44, while Ciara Melhus (+85) was tied for 24th.
Given the youth of the Cascades women’s team – Dirksen is in her second year, while Kell and Melhus are both rookies – Bertram is confident the best is yet to come.
“They’re sitting there looking at those medals and those banners, and I know that they believe in their hearts it could have been them,” he said. “I’m really excited to get them all back next year and have another go at it.”
This week marked the first time UFV had hosted the PING CCAA Golf National Championships. The 2016 edition of the tournament will be hosted by Holland College in Charlottetown, PEI.
“All the feedback was extremely positive,” Bertram said. “Getting great weather is a really big piece of the puzzle when it comes to hosting a golf tournament, and we certainly did well on that front. But the staff here at the golf course, the staff of the athletics department, and the communities of Abbotsford and Chilliwack really came together and made everybody feel welcome. We can’t wait to do it again someday.”