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Thursday, May 13, 2021

Men’s golf wins 7th GNAC conference championship

He had been practicing year-round for this moment. Skill-wise, junior Brett Johnson and his teammates on Western’s men’s golf team had shown they were up to par. Johnson helped secure a tournament victory for the Vikings with a three round score of (-10) on 203 strokes, a Great Northwest Athletic Conference Championship tournament record.

The Vikings tied a tournament record for team score, taking 837 strokes over the course of the three-round tournament. The victory gave Western it’s first GNAC championship since 2013 and its seventh title in nine years.

Western led from start to finish and were 18 strokes ahead of the next closest team. A trio of Vikings were instrumental in the team’s dominating victory.

Johnson took first, setting a GNAC tournament record for individual round performance by shooting a 64 in round one.

Junior Chris Hatch tied for third, the second time he has placed in the top five at the tournament in his career.

Freshman Michael Butler tied for sixth, continuing his late season success by finishing with his highest placing in his short collegiate career.

For the Viking’s trio, the path to GNAC dominance began long before they attended Western.

The players are on their way to the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II Regional tournament, for the 18 consecutive year from May 2-3.

For Johnson, golf has been a family affair. His father devoted his weekends to teaching his son the sport and continues to support him today.

“My dad was there the whole entire time and he was watching,” Johnson said. “Obviously, he was a big influence in my progression.”

Hatch also grew up around the sport, beginning the sport when he was 12 years old. He said his Mukilteo home was on the edge of a golf course which he could access easily.

Before golf became his priority, Hatch participated in select soccer for 10 years before scheduling conflict forced him to choose between the two. Since the decision he has been able to devote himself entirely to his sport.

“I have practice here and I have a coach that I practice with at home,” Hatch said. “I work pretty hard. I worked with my golf coach [at home], Craig, and he’s always been a big part of my golf career.”

Butler began golfing when he was 14 years old. He was originally committed to basketball and baseball until a dislocated knee cap made him change his focus. From there, he devoted himself to golf after finally healing.

“I was always trying to catch up,” Butler said. “I started later than most players so I had to work a little harder to catch up to everyone else’s skills.”

Johnson is in his first year with the team after transferring from Oregon State University. During his time at OSU, Johnson and his former golf coach were indifferent towards each other which affected his playing time. Johnson said Western’s men’s golf coach, Luke Bennett, is one of the best coaches in the region.

“It feels good to have some success and be playing in every tournament,” Johnson said.

While most students were hanging out with friends and enjoying their spring break, Johnson was playing golf almost every day to prepare for the tournament. Being a transfer student this year from OSU, Johnson played the entire season with a chip on his shoulder from his previous team’s experience.

The men’s golf team may have the GNAC title under their belt, as well as Johnson’s personal records, but they are not ready to settle.

“There’s a lot of room for improvement,” Hatch said. “If we tighten up the places that need improvement, I think I have a good shot of putting up some good numbers for our team and I believe my teammates will do the same.”

The players are on their way to the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II Regional tournament, for the 18 consecutive year from May 2-3.

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