Hinton Sinks 25-foot Birdie Putt on 2nd Playoff Hole to Win NWC Tournament Title

Sam Hinton (Jr., Seaside, OR/Seaside HS)
Sam Hinton (Jr., Seaside, OR/Seaside HS)

By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications, (503) 370-6110

LAKEWOOD, Wash. -- Willamette University junior Sam Hinton (Seaside, OR/Seaside HS) sank a 25-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole to take first place at the 2018 Northwest Conference Tournament in men's golf on Sunday, April 22 at Oakbrook Golf Club. Hinton and Alex Plusquellec from George Fox University tied for the lead at 143 after completing both rounds of the 36-hole tournament. The golfers tied on the first playoff hole, but Hinton's birdie putt clinched the win.

"I couldn't be happier for him. He's just been so solid all year," Willamette Head Coach Patrick Daugherty said about Hinton. "I love the way he plays. Alex Plusquellec is such a great competitor and an awesome kid. There's a ton of mutual respect for him. It was great to see those two battle it out.
"Sam hit the back of the green on #18, which was the second playoff hole, just catching the fringe," Daugherty recalled. "Since he wasn't on the green he elected to keep the pin in. Alex hit a chip shot to about five feet which he had to make for par. Sam and I talked about the read and discussed what we both saw, and agreed he should putt it not chip it. The ball rolled in with good pace just on the left center of the hole. It was pretty special. The team immediately came out to congratulate him. There must have been 50 or so people watching intensely. It was very special to have his parents, Suzie and Steve Hinton, there watching."

Hinton shot a tournament-low 69 in the first round and a 74 in the second round. His 2-under 69 was the only sub-par round of the tournament. Plusquellec shot 72 and 71. Austin Darnell and Luke Hall, both from Pacific Lutheran University, tied for third place a 144, as Darnell carded 71-73 and Hall shot a 72 in each round. Lucas Balala of Linfield College placed fifth at 146 by shooting a 73 each day.

A five-way tie for sixth place at 147 included golfers from five different teams. Kenneth Sheldon (Jr., Ocean Park, WA/Ilwaco HS) of Willamette and Mitchell Baldridge of PLU both shot 73-74. Mason Koch of George Fox University, Sam Stiles of Whitworth University, and Mac Turner from University of Puget Sound all shot 76-71.

Joining Hinton and Sheldon on Willamette's team entry were Ben Graham (Fr., Renton, WA/Liberty HS), Spencer Hong (Sr., Bellevue, WA/Singapore American School) and Trent Jones (Jr., Kenmore, WA/Shorecrest HS). Graham placed 15th with a score of 150. He shot a 1-over 72 on Saturday and a 78 on Sunday. Hong finished at 158 with back-to-back scores of 79. Jones shot 162 with an 85 in the first round and a 77 over the final 18 holes.

Hinton was named First Team All-Northwest Conference. Three Bearcats -- Sheldon, Jones and Graham -- received Second Team All-NWC recognition.

Pacific Lutheran won the tournament with a score of 581 (287-294). Whitworth placed second at 595 (302-392). The Bearcats finished in third place at 596 (293-303), just one stroke behind the Pirates.

Linfield was fourth with a score of 601 (306-295), while George Fox was fifth at 609 (306-303) and Whitman College was sixth at 623 (311-312). Puget Sound took seventh at 629 (318-311), Pacific University was eighth at 636 (318-318), and Lewis & Clark College was ninth at 705 (363-342).

In addition to winning the tournament, PLU also earned first place in the overall Northwest Conference team standings to grab the 2017-18 NWC Championship. Whitworth was second overall and the Bearcats were third.

The NWC Tournament counted for one-half of the overall NWC Championship with points earned on an 16-14-12-etc. basis. The NWC Fall Classic and the NWC Spring Classic were each worth one fourth of the title with points awarded on an 8-7-6-etc. basis. This year's final standings were:  Pacific Lutheran 30 points, Whitworth 26 points, Willamette 24 points, George Fox 21 points, Linfield 19 points, Puget Sound 10 points, Whitman 8 points, Pacific 6 points and Lewis & Clark with zero points.

"I am really proud of these guys," Daugherty said. "We have had a hard spring season. We have been up and down to say the least, but through it all, the guys still believed, and gave themselves a chance in the end. Finishing in the top three in our conference is something to be very proud of. I feel like our conference has gotten so much better and is legitimately five teams deep. We return four of the five guys and will definitely look to make yet another run at the conference title."