WALLA WALLA — Pete McClure thinks his Whitman College men’s golf team barely scratched the surface during the recently completed fall portion of the 2012-13 season.
Combine senior Geoff Burks’ breakout play with sophomore Scott Martin’s determined mind set and the vast potential of a trio of freshmen and you can understand why the Missionary coach can hardly wait for springtime to roll around.
Especially so when you mix in the return of juniors Andrew Welch and Jonathan Standen, who are currently studying overseas, plus basketball players Andrew Clark, a senior, and Drew Raher, a freshman, who plan to play golf in the spring.
“The most interesting thing about next spring is, who will play?” McClure said. “I’ve got a lot of guys who all want to be on the travel team. And it is a coach’s dream of having everyone want to play No. 1, and we are not far from that.”
Whitman tied for fourth place in the Northwest Conference Fall Classic at the Tri-Mountain Golf Course in Ridgefield, Wash., the last weekend in October. They did it by shooting a second-round 293 team score that shaved 27 shots off their first-day total.
And that was good enough to keep the Missionaries in contention for the conference championship, 75 percent of which will be decided during two spring tournaments.
“Hopefully, we can pass all of them,” McClure said of the teams that finished ahead of Whitman at the Fall Classic. “Whitworth is deep, always right at the top, but our guys have the confidence and they feel like they can win it.”
Burks will go into the spring as Whitman’s unquestioned No. 1 player. He established himself by shooting a 5-under-par 67 during the second round of the Whitman Invitational at the Wine Valley Golf Club and by firing a 4-under 68 during the second round of the Fall Classic.
“The highlight of the fall has to be Geoff Burks,” McClure said. “What a breakthrough.
“Geoff had never broken par and was very frustrated. He had been playing collegiate golf for three years and didn’t feel like he was getting any better. And then he shoots 67 at Wine Valley, finishing strong by making birdies on two of the last three holes, and follows up with a 68 in the Fall Classic.
“He has really matured. He’s very methodical about the way he approaches the game but at the same time plays with a lot of passion. He wants to get better and it is paying off for him.”
The Missionary players are on their own from now until mid-February when spring practice officially begins. They will have access to driving ranges and putting greens on local courses as well as a driving area in the school’s multi-purpose gym.
“There is also the opportunity to work out at the Baker Ferguson Fitness Center,” McClure said.
“Several years ago I asked Michelle Hanford, the director there, to set up a program for golfers. She did some research, came back with a workout routine that is golf specific and that is there for all of the guys to utilize if they choose.”