MISSION, Ore. - While unable to catch George Fox for first place, the Whitman College women's golf team fought off a stiff challenge from Whitworth to take second on Sunday as the Northwest Conference Spring Classic finished its two-day run at Wildhorse Golf Course.
The Bruins shot 308 for a team score in the closing round to win the tournament with a 36-hole total of 620.
Whitman, the tournament host, carded a 330 on Sunday to finish second overall with a 650 total, turning back Whitworth by eight strokes.
"As a team we took a very positive step in the right direction on the back nine Sunday with a lot on the line," Whitman coach Skip Molitor said.
"As we struggled on the front side, Whitworth caught us and passed us by several shots. We knew that we needed to finish second in this tournament to give ourselves the chance to earn an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament by winning the NWC Championship tournament later this month.
"With those high stakes in play, we responded on Sunday's back nine with three 38s by Catelyn Webber, Elaine Whaley and Tate Head, plus a 41 by Sarah Debs. That gave us a 155 team total for the back nine after shooting 29 shots higher than that on the front."
Webber and Whaley finished in a three-way tie for third place in the individual scoring at 158.
"Both Catelyn and Elaine are striking the ball extremely well," Molitor said. "Catelyn, who hit 15 greens in regulation on Sunday, would have threatened par if not for a tough putting round.
"Elaine hit the first 13 fairways in regulation before she missed her first fairway of the day on the notoriously tough 18th hole at the Wildhorse. Elaine was playing in the final pairing for the first time and responded very well."
Head hit six straight greens in regulation in posting her 38 on the back nine. She capped that streak with a birdie 2 on No. 16.
Debs and Katie Zajicek both made nice comebacks on the second nine Sunday after shaky front sides.
Debs, who would have been in the mid-70s Saturday if not for a quadruple bogey 8 on the 18th hole, shaved five shots off her front nine score with a closing 41.
Zajicek, who won the Spring Classic a year ago, continues to search for the rhythm and confidence that established her as one of the top players in the nation last fall, Molitor said.
The NWC Championship tournament, slated for April 21-22 at Columbia Point in Richland, accounts for the final 50 percent of the season-long scoring.