SPOKANE, Wash. – The primary question facing Northwest Conference women's golf teams heading into this week's NWC Tournament is can anyone stop George Fox's march to a third straight conference championship. Whitworth will serve as the NWC Tournament host school on Saturday and Sunday at Columbia Point Golf Course in Richland, Washington.
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Click here for the Columbia Point GC website.
The fifth-ranked Bruins have rolled through the Northwest Conference schedule to this point. GFU won the NWC Fall Classic by 13 strokes and then more than doubled that margin of victory with a 30-stroke win in the NWC Spring Classic three weeks ago.
The Northwest Conference determines its champion by a cumulative score based on results of the NWC Fall Classic (25%), NWC Spring Classic (25%) and NWC Tournament (50%). The Bruins lead the current standings with 16 points. Whitman is second with 14 points after finishing second in both of the previous tournaments. If the Missionaries win the NWC Tournament, Whitman would tie George Fox for the NWC Championship and, based on the final tournament victory, earn the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament in May. That scenario played out in 2010 when Whitworth upset George Fox at the final tournament.
Whitworth, Linfield and Willamette are all tied for third place in the NWC standings with ten points apiece.
Whitworth women's golf coach Katie Fuqua believes that the Columbia Point GC will be a good track for determining the 2012 conference champion.
"If the wind holds off I am expecting some low scores, but if the wind picks up then it is anybody's golf course," Fuqua said. "The fairways are hard and cut low so they are quite firm and the greens are also firm and fast. Both finishing holes at Colombia point are difficult with nine being a hard hole to lay up on but necessary and eighteen requiring good ball placement off the tee and on the approach. All and all it is a good test for champion."
The NWC will also determine the conference's Player of the Year and the All-NWC team this weekend. The league uses a similar scoring system for the individual awards as for the team championship. Kelsey Morrison has a large lead in the Player of the Year chase with 23 points, followed by teammate Megan McGrew (14), Whitman's Catelyn Webber (13.5 points) and GFU's Jill Westendorf (13.5 points). Whitworth's Emily Guthrie, the 2010 NWC Tournament medalist, has 11 points.
Guthrie hopes to lead the Pirates to a strong finish to the 2012 season. Whitworth is coming off of a second place finish to Whitman at last Saturday's NWC Preview held at Columbia Point. The final team scores were: Whitman 333, Whitworth 344, Pacific (Ore.) 381. Darby Moberg had her best round of the season with a score of 82, finishing second to Whitman's Webber by a single stroke. Guthrie and Nicole Lomax both shot 87 and Elizabeth Martin carded an 88.
Fuqua believes that the right approach will lead to success for her players.
"I think the girls are ready and my goal for the team is to eliminate large scores by having good course management," Fuqua said. "Putting is also an issue on the course so I will make sure that we spend a good amount of time this week working on lag putts and short 5 foot putts. I look forward to see how well the ladies will finish this weekend."
The tournament gets underway on Saturday with the first group teeing off at 10:00 a.m. Sunday's first tee times are set for 9:00 a.m.