Eastern Washington’s men’s golf team gets another shot at the elusive trophy it originally planned to capture on its home course last fall when the Eagles and four other schools tee it up this weekend in the Big Sky Conference Golf Championships in Pocatello, Idaho.
Individual and team titles in men’s and women’s competition will be decided by a three-day, 54-hole tournament that starts Sunday at Blackfoot Golf Course. And EWU coach Julie Scott likes the chances of both her teams.
The Eagles men, led by senior Darin Vaughan and sophomore Kyle Kelly, have finished ninth or higher in each of the three tournaments they have played this fall. They were expected to win last year’s Big Sky title, but could not cash in on the familiarity of MeadowWood Golf Course.
Instead, Cal State Sacramento swept the team and individual titles, beating the runner-up Eagles by 22 strokes.
“Sacramento has a good team again this year,” admitted Scott, “but I think we’re a little bit better. We did not play our best at the tournament last year, but this year I think we’re peaking at just the right time. And we’re out for revenge.”
Cal State Sacramento should again provide the biggest challenge from a field that also includes Cal State Northridge, Weber State, Portland State and host Idaho State.
The Matadors return several golfers from last year’s championship team, but Scott thinks she has a ringer in junior Cory Hutsell, who redshirted last fall.
“He had an outstanding summer and he’s playing really well right now,” Scott said, pointing to Hutsell’s stroke average of just under 75 per round.
Scott’s women’s team features the possible medalist favorite in Brenda Hall, a junior from East Valley High School. Hall shot a 54-hole total of 10-over par 226 to win last month’s Grizzly Fall Classic in Missoula.
“Brenda has the potential to win any event she enters,” Scott said of Hall, who recently teed it up with a couple of the male players from the back tees and beat them. “She just hits the ball so far.
“She’s going to have a big advantage over a lot of the players this weekend because of her length. And she’s been working really hard on her short game recently.”
Scott sees defending champion Northern Arizona as the class of the women’s nine-team field. But she sees her Eagles as a near-lock for second place - at least.
“We should not have a problem with the rest of the schools,” she said. “We have quite a few girls who can shoot in the 70s. It’s just a matter of putting it all together for three days.” The teams will play practice rounds Saturday. Each team will field five golfers, but only the four with the lowest rounds each day will count toward the team total.
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