The University of Victoria Vikes men’s golf team flies south on Saturday in preparation for the NAIA National Championship, hosted at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill., May 24-27.
The no. 13 ranked Vikes will send Lawren Rowe, Mike Griffin, Alex Cartwright, Andrew Funk and Sean Hay to the event, which features 156 players and 30 teams. The Vikes were one of 10 teams to earn an at-large berth and have high expectations entering the tournament.
“Ultimately the goal is to win,” said head coach Justin Clews. “Four of the five guys travelling this year played at the NAIA’s last year in Daytona Beach so I anticipate that they’ll collect their thoughts on what happened last year and have a better game plan this time.”
Last year, the Vikes finished tied for 20th after battling through a tough opening round that saw them shoot 315. This year, the Vikes plan to come out strong on a course that promises to be challenging.
“The course is a PGA Tour facility which hosts a PGA event in July,” said Clews. “It plays long. I think the challenge of that course will be the length off the tee more than anything. It’s going to be in good shape because it’s only two months from when they play their event.”
Asked about players to watch besides second-year standout Lawren Rowe, Clews pointed to fellow sophomore Andrew Funk. But he also noted that the Vikes are also going to need strong performances from all five players if they are to make a mark at the tournament.
“Andrew is building some momentum going into this event,” said Clews. “I think him and Lawren will be the leaders. The wildcard is our number five player. I guess what I’m looking for are our number four or five guys contributing a bit more this week. That would be huge. It’s more of a balance—if we could get a good balance of scores that would be awesome.”
The only other Canadian school in the tournament, the UBC Thunderbirds, earned an automatic berth after winning the A.I.I. Conference Championship in April. The Vikes finished second at that event and are looking to learn from the experience.
“They’re great competition for us,” said Clews of UBC. “[At the A.I.I. Conference Championship] they outputted us mainly and obviously outscored us but they really clicked at that event and I think it’s a good wake-up call for our guys. They’ve beat us four times this year but we’ve beat them twice going into that regional event so we know that we can compete with those guys.
“You’ve just got to eliminate the big numbers and just kind of cap your bad score at a bogey here and there and capitalize on the birdy putts.”
The first round kicks off on Tuesday, May 24, at 7:30 a.m. For more information on the NAIA Men’s Golf National Championship, click here.
2015-16 Tournament Wins
Corban Spring Invitational
TMC Spring Invitational
Vikes Golf Shootout