Led by the exceptional performances of Aidan Thain and Jordan Lee, Western Washington University’s men’s golf team locked down the tenth GNAC championship in school history on Tuesday in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho.
Heading into the championship, Coach Luke Bennett made it clear what the expectations were.
“The ultimate goal is to come home with the championship,” Bennett said.
On Tuesday at the Coeur D’Alene Resort in Idaho, the Vikings accomplished just that.
Third-year student Jordan Lee individually finished second in the tournament and delivered a similar sentiment to what team expectations have been all along.
“From the start, our expectation has been to make it to nationals and win it,” he said. “We feel that we’re good enough that we should be able to win any tournament that we go to.”
Lee’s performance helped carry the team over the top as he shot 72, 69 and 74 in three rounds, good enough to finish second.
He explained that he had played there a few years back and played well, giving him comfortability with the course before the games began.
“I had a strong idea of how I was going to attack certain holes,” he said.
Lee explained that the weather played a factor as well.
“The weather was cold and it got a little windy on Tuesday. We’re used to that, being how it is golfing in winters and springs in Bellingham,” he said.
Last week, Bennett said the team had been practicing in less than ideal weather to help prepare for Coeur D’Alene
Fourth-year senior Aidan Thain has been teammates with Lee since 2018 and in that time he has gotten familiar with the type of player and person Lee is.
“I would argue that Jordan Lee is one of the best players in the country,” he said. “It pushes us a lot to see someone like him be a leader and push as hard as he does.”
Thain finished first in the tournament with a sparkling performance. He shot 67, 64 and 68 in three rounds, finishing a remarkable 15 strokes ahead of second place. In the process, he became the ninth GNAC individual medalist in Vikings history.
“Going into it, I just went out there and played golf,” he said. “I wanted to focus on doing everything well and stress-free. I’m confident in my abilities and it just happened to be a good week for me.”
Thain’s strong performance also seemed to have an effect on the rest of his teammates.
“Seeing [Thain] point off well from the start cranked us up and helped us perform better,” Lee said. While Thain and Lee finished on top, Conrad Brown finished seventh, while Devin Andrews finished tenth.
Most players on the team attribute their success to more than just hard work. There seems to be a special bond on this team that elevates their performance.
“The first thing I would say in regard to our success is that the team’s chemistry is really strong. The upperclassmen lead by example and the younger guys have stepped right in and shown they can contribute,” Bennett said. “They’re good friends off the course and that’s huge for the dynamic.”
Thain said the effort the leaders put in pushes everyone on the team to perform better and this seems to be all they are thinking about right now.
“We believe we’re the best team in the country and we ultimately expect to bring home the national championship,” Thain said.
The next step in that quest will begin in the Super Regional Round on Thursday, May 5 in Pueblo, Colo.
Joe Kramer (he/him) is a sports reporter for The Front. He is an aspiring sportswriter majoring in journalism. Outside of journalism, he enjoys baseball and spending time with his family, especially the dogs.