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Western Women triumph despite poor conditions

5707 yards separated the women’s golf team and the top of the standings as Western Washington places first at the 2022 GNAC women’s golf championship, earning their way to the Division II regional championship

The Viking Women’s Golf team poses for a picture in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho. The team won their second straight GNAC championship on April 19. // Photo courtesy of Shawn Toner

The Vikings bested Simon Fraser University by 10-strokes on their way to their second straight first place finish at the GNAC championships. All of Western Washington University’s golfers were on their game finishing in the top 15.

Elise Sumner led the way for Western and the whole competition. She scored 76-73 – 149 securing her first tournament win of her collegiate career.

Sumner said that she didn’t want to get in her own head as she was playing well. The entire team puts an emphasis on not focusing on their previous strokes, whether things are going well or poorly.

“We say a positive and negative after the round, but other than that we just try to keep our cool,” she said.

Staying grounded while remaining positive is exactly what Head Coach Luke Bennett expects out of his girls. With no room to rewrite the past, moving forward with the best attitude is your only option.

“This game can be extremely mental,” Bennett said. “My goal is to help the girls stay confident and positive. I try to emphasize staying in the moment and only focusing on one shot at a time.” 

Western finished the first day only two-strokes behind Simon Fraser University in second place. They went on to nearly match their score from the first day, while no other team was able to do the same.

They collectively shot 308 on the second day, 12 strokes better than Simon Fraser University, the team with the next best score.

“We were the better team, we had better skill,” redshirt junior golfer Megan Billeter said.

The biggest difference of this tournament may have been the poor conditions they were playing in. The course was rampant with wind and it even snowed at one point.

“It was 35 degrees, so we layered up and it gets kind of hard to swing with that many layers on, we just had to stay warm somehow,” junior golfer Sarah Shea said.

The extreme conditions forced all of the golfers to switch up their game to some extent. Depending on if they were facing towards the wind or against it, the golfers had to club-up or club-down depending on the situation.

“If I have to club up to four iron, which is a tougher club for me to hit and make solid contact with, then I’m not going to be as confident standing over the ball as I would be with a six iron,” Shea said.

Western was able to overcome the poor conditions and reign victorious when it was all said and done.

“For me, especially being international, [the team is] my family, so seeing coach afterwards was like seeing the proud dad,” said Danielle Bailey, a sophomore from Queenstown, New Zealand.

After winning the title on a Tuesday, the team was forced to hurry home to get back to the student part of their student-athlete lives. For Sumner, the winner of the tournament, that meant getting right back to the books.

“Student-athlete describes my life,” Sumner said. “I am a student and I am an athlete and I don’t have much time for anything else.”

The ride home was not only for studying. After a long two days, the excitement from such a successful weekend meant there was room for celebration too.

“We were definitely singing some Taylor Swift and letting it go, and just feeling the good energy between each other,” Bailey said.

Western’s team has been working hard, but they are not done yet. Winning the GNAC secures them a spot in the NCAA Division II Regional Championships in Stockton, Calif. The three day tournament begins May 2.

“Our region is one of the toughest in Division II so we are going to be competing against some really great teams, but we’re a really great team and we have a lot of heart, so hopefully we can show that in Stockton,” said Billeter.



Travis Zumwalt

Travis Zumwalt (he/him) is a sports and recreation reporter at the front. He is pursuing a journalism degree focusing in public relations. Outside of journalism, he enjoys watching sports, and spending time with his family and friends. 

You can reach him at traviszumwalt.thefront@gmail.com. 


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