WALLA WALLA — The Wine Valley Golf Club’s gigantic, undulating, cat-quick greens can cause problems for the best of golfers.
Whitman College senior Jeff Burks was so frustrated with his putting following Sunday’s first round of the Whitman Invitational that he approached Missionary coach Pete McClure about asking Wine Valley pro John Thorsnes for lessons in the art of getting the ball into the cup.
Nobody knows for sure what advice Thorsnes gave Burks, if indeed he did, but the Edmonds, Wash., product responded Monday with the best round of his life and helped the Whits climb from fifth place to a share of third in the tournament’s final team standings.
“His putter was pretty hot today,” McClure said of Burks’ sizzling 5-under-par 67 that proved to be the best round of the tournament.
“He told me that his goal was to shoot a round under par, because he had never done it,” McClure said. “And he goes out and shoots his best round ever.”
Burks was on the verge of cracking par during Sunday’s round. He was even-par after 14 holes but bogeyed three of the last four for a 3-over-par 75.
Thus his frustration.
But Burks didn’t let his round get away from him on Monday. His first nine holes included one bogey and one birdie, and he proceeded to tear up his second nine holes with five birdies and no bogeys.
“I talked to him after 16 holes and he was 3-under,” McClure said. “He said, ‘Coach, I can’t stop my legs from shaking.’ I told him to ‘enjoy the buzz,’ and he finished up birdie-birdie-par.”
Burks’ memorable round vaulted him to a share of third place in the final individual standings. He caught University of Puget Sound’s Adam Bean, who shot 69 Monday after a first-round 73, and Pacific Lutheran’s Dustin Hegge, who carded 73 Monday after a first-round 69, as that trio finished at 2-under-par 142.
Whitworth’s Lyle Rudnicki shot back-to-back 3-under-par 69s and was the tournament medalist at 6-under 138. Rudnicki finished three shots in front of Chris Lumsden of George Fox, who followed up a first-round 70 with a 1-under-par 71 on Monday for a 3-under 141 score for 36 holes.
Rudnicki led the Pirates to the team championship with an even-par 576 with 18-hole rounds of 287 and 289. Whitworth finished 10 shots ahead of UPS, which posted its second straight 293 score Monday for a 586 total.
Whitman, which shot 292 Monday and improved by seven shots over its first-day score of 299, and Pacific Lutheran tied for third place at 591. The Bearcats shot just the opposite, with a 299 Monday after a first-round score of 292.
Linfield carded 295 Monday for a 592 total and was in fifth place. Willamette shot 304-309—613 for sixth place, George Fox was 313-326—639 for seventh and Lewis & Clark rounded out the field of Northwest Conference rivals with a 338-324—662 count.
Burks wasn’t the only Missionary to enjoy a good round on Monday.
Freshman phenom Evan Dyar of Spokane turned in a 3-over-par 75 Monday and was tied for 12th place with A.J. Taylor of Linfield. Both players shot even-par 72 on Sunday but were unable to duplicate those scores Monday.
“Evan was even par with two holes to play,” McClure said. “But a triple-bogey turned his round into a 75.”
Freshman Daniel Hoffman of Los Altos, Calif., also shot 75 Monday, one shot more than his first-round 74, and was tied with Matt Kito of UPS for 15th place.
“Daniel played a steady round,” McClure said. “He made three birdies and six bogeys.”
And Scott Martin turned in Whitman’s fourth and final counting score. The sophomore from Escondido, Calif., shot 75 Monday, a three-stroke improvement, and was tied with Kyle Wilson of George Fox for 24th place.
“Scott made three birdies and a bunch of pars,” McClure said. “With his 75 as our final counting score, we shot our best team score ever at 292.”
Freshman Connor Hood of Bellevue, Wash., finished 81-84—165 and was all alone in 38th place. Sophomore Nathan Fisher of Tacoma shot 81-85—166 and was tied with George Fox’s Tyler Dyck for 39th place. And Jordan Dixon, a junior from Spokane, shot 84 Monday, nine shots better than his first-round 94, and finished 42nd in the field of 49 with a 178 score.
Whitman will compete in the Pacific Lutheran University Invitational Oct. 14 at the Chambers Bay Golf Club in University Place, Wash. That will be the team’s final tuneup before the Northwest Conference Fall Classic Oct. 27-28 at the Tri-Mountain Golf Club in Ridgefield, Wash., which will conclude the fall portion of Whitman’s schedule.