April 13, 2007
LOMPOC, Calif. - Gonzaga University's men's and women's golf teams will compete in the West Coast Conference Championship on Monday and Tuesday at La Purisima Golf Course, the 40th annual championship for the men and the 11th for the women.
The layout will be par 72 for both the men and women, with the men's yardage at 7,105 and the women playing to 6,069 yards.
Last season, the Pepperdine University women's golf team captured its fifth consecutive WCC Championship, while the Loyola Marymount University men took home their inaugural title. The Lions and the Waves were led by a pair of freshmen as Brian Locke and Jayvie Agojo earned individual medalist honors in leading their respective teams to the conference titles.
The Bulldogs have experience heading into the tournament, the women's team with two seniors, two juniors and a sophomore, while the men will field a little younger squad with one senior, two juniors, a sophomore and a freshman.
Gonzaga's women are paced by senior Mary Kate Morgan and junior Sarah Sheffield. Morgan tied for third place last season with a 54-hole total of 227 to earn All-WCC accolades, six shots behind Agojo. Morgan's effort tied Lisa Wasinger's 1997 finish as the best in the Bulldogs 10 WCC Championships. The best team finish for the Bulldogs was third in 2003.
Morgan takes a stroke average of 77.8 into the championship and captured her second career tournament with a victory at the Bobcat Desert Classic in mid-March. She had three top five finishes in tournaments this season.
Sheffield has a 79.2 stroke average as the only other Bulldog to break 80. Sheffield tied for 21st at the WCC Championship last year at 252. Sheffield had two Top 10 finishes this season, including a tie for fifth at the Inland Empire Women's Intercollegiate last fall.
Senior Jennifer Swanson and junior Lacy Jo Manwaring bring experience to the championship. Manwaring finished 14th last year at 245, and Swanson had an injury-plagued 2006 championship. She withdrew after just five holes of the second round, then returned the final day to try and help the team score even though she was out of any individual placing.Elizabeth Jarrett is the rookie it comes to the WCC Championship. The sophomore has competed in six tournaments this season.
"I think Mary Kate has the ability to win this tournament," Gonzaga head coach Robert Gray said. "She proved last year she could compete well at this event. I look for her to be focused and come out and have a solid finish to her collegiate career. We need to be consistent across the board to compete as a team, and I think we're capable of doing that."
On the men's side, freshman Brandon Crick has emerged as the Bulldog to beat. He brings a stroke average of 73.0 into the championship, won the Santa Clara University Invitational and tied for second at the 36-hole North South Intercollegiate played in Jacksonville, Fla. He had two other Top 10 finishes.
Bowdy Ehler is the other youngster on the men's roster, the sophomore playing in six tournaments this season with a 77.6 stroke average and an 11th place finish at the North South Intercollegiate his best effort.
Tanaka had an unforgettable incident at last year's WCC Championship.
During the final round he played what he thought was his ball - it had the GU logo and his markings on it - but in actuality it was a ball he had lost in the same general area during Sunday's practice round. He was playing a "2" and the ball he played was a "3" (a ball identifier marking) and he disqualified himself after discovering the error at the completion of the final round. He would have been at 228 and somewhere around 23rd place.
Hayes was the top Bulldog finisher a year ago in a tie for 16th at 226. This season he has a stroke average of 75.7 with his best finish a tie for 15th at the Bill Cullum Intercollegiate hosted by Cal State Northridge.
Loe joins Crick as the only Bulldogs to play all 26 rounds this season and has a 74.7 stroke average for second on the team behind Crick. He had two top five finishes in the fall, and had four sub-70 rounds, something he hasn't duplicated this spring. Loe finished 37th in last year's WCC Championship at 241.
"We have a number of individuals who can step up," Gray said of his men's squad. "Brandon has had a solid freshman year, but any of the other four could also come to the front. If we can rediscover the consistency we had early in the season - and we played well in our last outing - than anything can happen."
The Bulldogs had a season-best 54-hole score of 871 last fall, then finished the spring season with an 873 at the Wyoming Cowboy Classic played in Phoenix, Ariz. LMU won last year's WCC title with an 872.