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Viking golf tees up for spring season

With the fall season ending in October, both men's and women's teams are set to swing into action for spring

Cody Oakes hits a chip shot to land on the green during the final day of the Fujikura Invitationals in Vista, Calif., on Feb. 14, 2023. Oakes watches the ball fly in the air on the course of Shadowridge Country Club. // Photo courtesy of Cody Oakes

Both men's and women's Vikings golf teams are making their spring return. The men's team has already stepped on the green, with their third-place finish in the Fujikura Invitationals in Vista, Calif. on Feb. 14.

On a course different from what the Vikings team is used to, the men's team prevailed, placing higher than two-thirds of the other competing schools. 

In the three rounds and 56 holes played, the two co-captains, seniors Jordan Lee and Cody Oakes, finished with the two best scores from Western’s team.

Luke Bennett, head coach of both the men's and women's teams, spoke of the challenges when heading into the Fujikura Invitationals.

“Our mindset was good,” Bennett said. “In this game, there are highs and lows, and it's easy to get caught up in that. … The majority of the players did a good job.”

In the 12-team tournament, the Vikings were one of three coming from out of state to compete. Colorado State University Pueblo placed second and Westminster College placed 10th. 

Both Western teams won the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Championships for the 2021-22 season, making the women’s team back-to-back champs, having also won in the 2020-21 season. 

“We know how strong some of the teams in our conference are,” Bennett said. “[The Vikings] don't want to let those trophies go, so it's definitely a motivator.”

viking golf

Cody Oakes, a senior at Western Washington University, and head coach Luke Bennett on the course together at the Shadowridge Country Club in Vista, Calif., on Feb. 14, 2023. Oakes talks with Bennett before his shot during the final round of the Fujikura Invitationals. // Photo courtesy of Cody Oakes

With the men's team currently placed first in the West Region of the NCAA DII rankings, they are working to solidify their reputation.

“We've had a history of being ranked well in the region, so we are comfortable where we stand,” Oakes said. “It’s about taking it to the next step and making it deep in the postseason.”

Originally, the women's team was set to return on Feb. 22 at the Gail Moore Match Play in Vancouver, B.C., but the event was postponed. Now, the Vikings will return on March 6 at the California State University San Marcos Fujikura Invitationals.

Freshman Emma Worgum made a name for herself early on in the season, finishing off the fall season by winning GNAC golfer of the week.

“I had the best tournament of my life in Hawaii [at the Dennis Rose Intercollegiate],” Worgum said. “My qualifying rounds have been good. I hope to push myself and keep getting better.”

Worgum says Western has a competitive spirit that allows them to bounce off each other while also pushing each other to be the best they can be. 

“We want to win [the] GNAC,” Worgum said. “We want to go out there and get top five every tournament, do the best we can and of course have a good time doing it.”

With golf requiring strict focus, nerves can get the best of players. Bennett spoke on how every Viking gets mentally prepared in their own way – some use breathing techniques while others have pre-swing routines. 

“At this level, it's mentally trying to stay focused for 18 holes,” Bennett said. “For them, it's their internal desire to be competitive, knowing the next shot is going to be another opportunity to do something great, which fuels them to play well.”

With new members on both teams, it may serve as reassurance for some players knowing that there’s veterans present, like Lee and Oakes, to help give insight into how the games may be played in the biggest moments.

“We've been in this position before,” Oakes said. “We understand where we stand and what we have to do in order to make it to a national championship.

Going into spring, both teams look forward to the GNAC championships on April 24 and 25 and a chance at NCAA DII Regionals and Championships, which takes place in May for both the men's and women's teams. 

Kota Sato

Kota Sato (he/him) is a sports and recreation reporter for the Front and third-year student at WWU. Majoring in news/editorial journalism, he enjoys writing most on topics that revolve around American football or basketball.

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