By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
LAKEWOOD, Wash. -- Sam Hinton (Jr., Seaside, OR/Seaside HS) of Willamette University shot a 2-under-par 69 in the first round of the 2018 NWC Tournament in men's golf to take a two-stroke lead on Saturday, April 21 at Oakbrook Golf Club. Hinton ended the day in front of Jordan Brajcich and Austin Darnell, both from Pacific Lutheran University, who were tied for second at even-par 71. Ben Graham (Fr., Renton, WA/Liberty HS) of Willamette was tied for fourth at 72, and teammate Kenneth Sheldon (Jr., Ocean Park, WA/Ilwaco HS) was tied for seventh with a 73.
In the team standings, Willamette was second behind Pacific Lutheran, with the Lutes at 287 and the Bearcats at 293. Whitworth University was third with a score of 302. George Fox University and Linfield College were tied for fourth place at 306. Whitman College held sixth place at 311, while Pacific University and University of Puget Sound were tied for seventh at 318. Lewis & Clark College was ninth at 363.
"Round 1 was a really good start," Willamette Head Coach Patrick Daugherty said. "Kenneth and Ben were solid as they have been over the last few weeks. Spencer came up real big for us today and has continued to get better. His last three rounds have been right there where we need him. Sam, who has had a real good spring, continues to display his toughness and grit on the course. He's been super solid for us and he continues put up good numbers.
The NWC Tournament will conclude with the second round on Sunday, April 22. If the Bearcats rally to win the tournament, they will either claim the overall NWC Championship outright (if PLU finishes below second place) or will enter a playoff for the title against the Lutes. The NWC Tournament counts for one-half of the overall title, but PLU currently holds an edge following the NWC Fall Classic and the NWC Spring Classic.
"I like where we are at," Daugherty commented. "I think 293 out there was a good score. PLU's 287 was impressive, but I think we are out there playing pressure free. I look forward to Round 2. We know what's on the line, but again I feel like we are playing with nothing to lose. Guys go out and put up numbers we know they can and I think its gonna be close. The team has given themselves a chance, and that's all we can ask."
Hinton, Brajcich and Darnell topped the individual standings. Graham's 72 was matched by Luke Hall of Pacific Lutheran and Alex Plusquellec from George Fox, as all three golfers tied for fourth. Sheldon's 73 earned him part of a three-way tie for seventh. Also carding a 73 on Saturday were Lucas Balala from Linfield and Mitchell Baldridge of Pacific Lutheran.
Three golfers -- Jacob Bell of L&C, plus Reilly Hegarty and Keegan Loo of Whitworth -- tied for 10th place at 75. A total of 44 golfers finished the first round, with 31 competitors shooting under 80.