PORTLAND - With freshman Geoff Burks shooting the day's third-best score, the Whitman College men's golf team was in fourth place after Saturday's opening round of the Northwest Conference Championships here at Heron Lakes Golf Course.
Burks shot 39 on both nines for a 78, just four strokes back from the leader, Whitworth's Ryan Young. Four golfers were tied for second place at 77.
In team scoring, Whitman posted 321 for its top four, in fourth place, three strokes behind Puget Sound.
Whitworth was in first with a 309, one shot ahead of Linfield.
"We played pretty well today," Whitman coach Peter McClure said. "The scores were high for the entire field, but this is a tough, long course with water on more than half of the holes. If you make a mistake here, you will pay for it."
The weather was also a factor, especially early in the day when winds kicked up and rain fell, McClure said.
Sophomore John Abercrombie shot 80 for Whitman's second-best score. Senior Steve Campbell carded an 81, one stroke better than freshmen Peter Clark and Drew Raher.
Sophomore David DeVine had trouble on the final hole, knocking two balls into the water to take a quadruple-bogey eight that inflated his score to 86.
"All of the guys on all of the teams had horror stories to tell with the water," McClure said. "If we can limit our double- and triple-bogeys tomorrow, we're going to have a really good round."
Burks had Saturday's most steady round. He birdied once but his worst hole was a double-bogey on No. 8. Abercombie had two birdies but was victimized by a double-bogey on No. 4 and a triple on No. 14.
Both Burks and Abercrombie finished their rounds on a strong note, shooting even-par golf over their final four holes. That wasn't the case for Campbell, who lost five strokes to par on the last three holes.
"What really hurt Steve was No. 18," McClure said. "He put two balls in the water and finished with a triple-bogey seven."
Clark also had troubles down the stretch, dropping four shots to par over the last three holes.
Based on season-long scoring, Whitman entered this weekend in a three-way tie with George Fox and Pacific for fifth place in the conference standings.
With its 321 total in Saturday's round, Whitman was two strokes in front of both Pacific and Pacific Lutheran. George Fox was six strokes back in seventh place. Willamette and Lewis & Clark were well back in seventh and eighth.
"Our guys are optimistic and looking forward to a strong finish tomorrow (Sunday)," McClure said. "It would be great to get four or five or guys scoring in the 70s, and that's something we can do."
The tournament concludes with today's final round.