By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SALEM, Ore. -- The Willamette University men's golf team has been selected to finish second in the Northwest Conference in 2017-18 according to the NWC Men's Golf Preseason Poll, in voting by the NWC head coaches. Defending champion Pacific Lutheran University was chosen to retain its title.
Pacific Lutheran topped the poll with five of nine first place votes and a total of 66 points. Willamette filled second place in the poll with three first place votes and 60 points, while Whitworth University was third with one first place vote and 51 points. The Lutes won the 2016-17 NWC Championship, while Willamette finished in second place and Whitworth was third.
Last year, Willamette placed second in the overall NWC standings for the third season in a row. In 2014-15 and 2015-16, the Bearcats trailed only Whitworth, with claimed both titles to give the Pirates three championships in a row. In 2016-17, PLU won its first NWC title in men's golf since earning back-to-back championships in 1999-00 and 2000-01.
Following Pacific Lutheran, Willamette and Whitworth in the 2017-18 Preseason Poll was George Fox University. The Bruins received 39 points in the poll. Linfield College was fifth with 36 points, University of Puget Sound held sixth place with 29 points, and Lewis & Clark College was close behind in seventh place at 28 points. Whitman College was eighth with 13 points and Pacific University was ninth with 11 points.
Three tournaments are used to determine the overall NWC team champion each season. The NWC Fall Classic and the NWC Spring Classic are each worth one-fourth of the title. The NWC Tournament is worth one-half of the championship. In 2016-17, Willamette placed second at both the NWC Fall Classic and the NWC Spring Classic, and then placed third at the NWC Tournament -- just three strokes out of first place -- to earn second place overall.
The Bearcats graduated one All-NWC selection from a year ago in Clark Wilson, who earned Second Team All-NWC honors. Wilson previously was First Team All-NWC in 2014-15 and was Second Team All-NWC in 2013-14. Willamette also graduated Peter Mitzel, who was chosen First Team All-NWC in 2015-16 and was Second Team All-NWC in 2013-14.
Trent Jones (Kenmore, WA/Shorecrest HS), who earned First Team All-NWC honors last year, is back for his junior season. Jones won on the first playoff hole to take first place at the NWC Fall Classic last season, and later took second place at the NWC Spring Classic. He was fifth at the NWC Tournament. Kenneth Sheldon (Jr., Ocean Park, WA/Ilwaco HS) also returns after receiving Second Team All-NWC accolades in 2016-17.
Head Coach Patrick Daugherty is in his fifth season leading the Willamette men's golf team. It is his eighth season on the coaching staff.
The Bearcats open the 2017-18 season this weekend with the Dupont Invitational, hosted by Pacific Lutheran at the Home course in Dupont, Washington. The tournament will begin on Sunday, Sept. 17 with the first 18 holes and will conclude on Monday, Sept. 18 with the final 18 holes.
2017-18 NWC Men's Golf Preseason Poll (1st place votes in parentheses)
1. Pacific Lutheran (5), 66 points, 1st place in NWC in 2015-16
2. Willamette (3), 60 points, 2nd place in NWC
3. Whitworth (1), 51 points, 3rd place in NWC
4. George Fox, 39 points, 6th place tie in NWC
5. Linfield, 36 points, 4th place in NWC
6. Puget Sound, 29 points, 7th place in NWC
7. Lewis & Clark, 28 points, 5th place in NWC
8. Whitman, 13 points, 8th place in NWC
9. Pacific, 11 points, 9th place in NWC
Note: Points were awarded on a 9-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis. Coaches could not vote for their own team.