BREMERTON, Wash. - Walla Walla Community College's men's golf team picked an opportune time to catch a few breaks here Sunday during the first round of the 36-hole NWAACC Championships at the Gold Mountain Golf Complex.
With Jeff Neher, Marcus Kilthau and Mike Noreen all shooting even-par 70s on the Cascade Course, the Warriors compiled a 283 team total that was good for second place, five shots behind front-running Bellevue and two in front of pre-tournament favorite Spokane.
"This is what I knew they could do and hoped they would do," WWCC coach Mike Rostollan said of his men's squad that finished fourth in each of the four regular-season NWAACC tournaments. "They are playing up to their potential, and it also looks like we are getting some good breaks at last."
The tournament concludes today on Gold Mountain's Cascade Course that hosted the University of Washington-hosted NCAA West Regional tournament last week.
"The course tips out at 7,100 (yards) and the roughs are deep," Rostollan said of today's track. "Yesterday we played at 6,600 yards and today we will probably be at 6,700."
And Rostollan fully expects his team to make a run at the championship.
"Five shots in a team game is just one hole," the coach said. "If it goes our way, we can be right on top of them.
"Bellevue is a talented group of kids and we will have to play well. But five shots is a makeable number for us. We didn't shoot ourselves out of it, but we have some work to do."
A pair of Bulldogs, Matt Epstein and Johnny Carey, matched 2-under 68s to share medalist honors halfway through the tournament. Neher, Kilthau and Noreen were deadlocked for third place with their identical even-par scores.
Neher, who has been WWCC's most dependable player all season and was named to the all-NWAACC second team in ceremonies held prior to the tournament, was solid as usual, Rostollan said.
"He was one-over, one-under all day long," Rostollan said. "He birdied the last hole for his 70. He hit a lot of fairways and had a lot of 12-to-15-foot putts for birdie. His round could have been something else."
Kilthau also made birdie on the last hole for his 70 that made up for a somewhat miraculous bogey-six on the front side. On that par-five hole, he hit two trees, finally chipped onto the green and sank a 30-footer for his bogey.
"After that, he was one-over all day until making birdie on the last hole," Rostollan said.
Noreen, who had a somewhat disappointing regular season, came through Sunday with what his coach and teammates were describing as a "Six Flags" round in reference to the Southern California amusement park.
"He was up and down all day," Rostollan said.
"He was three over after four holes, and on one of those holes it took him four shots to get up-and-down from 10 yards out. Then he goes birdie, birdie, birdie, eagle and makes the turn at three-under. And then he had some more excitement on the back nine with a bogey and a double. But he parred out for his 70, so he is finally starting to play well."
Max Levitch shot a 73 - which tied for 17th place in the 55-player field - for WWCC's fourth counting score. Daniel Morgan shot a non-counting 75 and Cory Spencer, called upon when Michael Ervin suffered a back injury during a practice round, carded a 78 for the Warriors' sixth score.
Skagit Valley was fourth in the team standings with a 387 total, followed by Columbia Basin 297, host Olympic 298, Southwest Oregon 304, Treasure Valley 323, Grays Harbor 327 and Green River 331.
Spokane's women's team entered today's second round with an eight-shot advantage over Green River. Led by Alyssa Osterback's medalist round of 75, the Sasquatch shot 229 while Green River was at 237.
Skagit Valley was third at 254, Centralia followed with 271 and the Warriors were in fifth place with a 272 score. Next was Olympic at 273, followed by Bellevue 278, Southwest Oregon 287, Treasure Valley 292 and CBC 332.
Donna Dunovant, earlier named to the all-NWAACC women's first team, shot a 78 and was tied for fourth place. Jordan Simkins shot 95, good for 24th place in the 40-woman field, and Jamie Robison was 29th with a 99 for Walla Walla's other two scores.
WWCC's fourth woman, Katie Lucas, was unavailable because she was making a visit to Boise State University where she intends to play soccer in the fall.
Anticipated weather conditions today were similar to Sunday, Rostollan said.
"It will be blustery, and it will drizzle some just to remind us of where we are," Rostollan said. "And for Bremerton, it will be a balmy 60 degrees."