SANTA CLARA, Calif. – The Santa Clara men's golf team will look to accomplish something only one team of players in the program's history has done since 1970 and that's win the West Conference Men's Golf Championship. They get their chance starting Monday when the three-day tournament gets underway at the 7,007-yard, par-72 Gold Mountain Golf Club Olympic Course in Bremerton, Wash.
The annual 54-hole event that determines the WCC's team and individual automatic qualifiers for the NCAA regional championships will be contested Monday through Wednesday and this year's event figures to be tight with all nine schools closely ranked in the most recent Golfstat.com poll. BYU was the preseason favorite among conference coaches and is the highest ranked team entering the tournament at No. 35.
"Conference is pretty wide open," said head coach Rob Miller. "BYU would have to be the favorite, but after that all the teams are real close. For the most part we're all the same and whoever is hot at tournament time will be a force."
The Broncos are scheduled for a 8:00 a.m. start Monday morning on the 1st hole of the Olympic Course and will be paired with golfers from LMU and Pacific. The Broncos lineup will feature freshmen Evan McLeod and Tyler Kertson, sophomores Drew Miller and Gio Gandionco and senior Scott Lowe. McLeod will be the first Bronco off the tee followed by the rest of the lineup in 10 minute intervals.
Kertson has been the team's top individual finisher in three of the last five events and leads the squad with a 73.27 stroke average playing in all 30 rounds this season while Gandionco has topped the team in three of the last four events and has been playing his best golf of the season. The two finished in a tie for 22nd the last time out at the Cowboy Classic on April 8.
"Another solid tournament for Gio and Tyler leading the team," Miller said after the Cowboy Classic. "Those two are stepping up their game and things are looking good for the future."
Lowe will be competing in his third WCC Championship and is the only other team member to play all 30 rounds this season with eight being scored at or below par. He ranks behind Kertson and Gandionco in stroke average at 74.0.
Ranked 96th by Golstat.com last week, Santa Clara is one of six WCC teams among the top 100 in the country. BYU is the conference's top ranked team with San Diego at 70th, Saint Mary's at 86th, San Francisco at 92nd and Pepperdine at 95th.
Without a true No. 1 player, the Broncos have relied on the team approach and it has worked well. They have had a different top individual finisher five times in their 10 events and seven players have competed in at least six tournaments. Playing against some stiff competition during the spring, including a number of conference rivals, the team finished seventh three times and eighth twice in their five events coming up a few shots shy of a top 5 finish each time.
At last week's Cowboy Classic the Broncos were only three shots out of fifth place and missed a top-5 by two shots at the Fresno State Classic. They were five shots out of fifth at the Desert Intercollegiate and were six shots away from a top-5 at two other competitions.
"We continue to feel like we're a strong team and capable of playing well, and have played well," Miller said. "We've hung in there and have beaten some of the other conference team's we've competed against. We need a tournament where we put it all together and we're hoping the last one is our best."
Name: West Coast Conference Championship
Dates (Site): Monday-Wednesday, April 14-16 (Bremerton, Wash.)
Host: West Coast Conference
Field (Rank*): BYU (35), Gonzaga (159), Loyola Marymount (109), Pacific (150), Pepperdine (95), Saint Mary's (86), San Diego (70), San Francisco (92), Santa Clara (96)
Details: A single 18-hole round will be played each day for a total of 54 holes. Monday's first round will begin with threesomes teeing off from the first hole starting at 8:00 a.m.
Course: Gold Mountain Golf Club Olympic Course
Yardage / Par: 7,007 yards / Par 72
Course Website: www.goldmountaingolf.com
Course Address: 7263 W. Belfair Valley Road, Bremerton, WA 98312
Course Number: (360) 415-5432
Live Stats: www.golfstat.com
*Rankings according to Golfstat.com as of 4/9/14