After All That Swinging In The Rain, UBC Men Off To NAIA Championships

The UBC T'Birds Men's Golf Squad Is Off To The NAIA National Championships After Defending Their A.I.I. Title Earning An Automatic Berth In The Tournament - Image Courtesy UBC Athleticis/Indiana Northwest Athletics

By Brad Ziemer, British Columbia Golf

Metro Vancouver’s cold winter and soggy spring have presented some considerable challenges to the men’s and women’s golf teams at the University of British Columbia.

It was tough to find a place to practice. Shaughnessy Golf & Country Club, which for years has been UBC’s main practice facility, was shut down due to the weather for much of the winter and early spring. So were Point Grey and Marine Drive.

“Shaughnessy and Marine Drive and Point Grey, who do so much for us, they just haven’t been open,” UBC golf coach Chris MacDonald said. “Until this week we hadn’t played those courses since Nov. 12. We basically didn’t have a home golf course. I was saying to my athletic director, it’s a little like a swim team that doesn’t have a pool. We had a bit of a laugh about that.”

Fortunately, a couple of other courses -- University in Vancouver and Beach Grove in Tsawwassen -- stepped up and offered the Thunderbirds some tee times. There has been much swinging in the rain, but the T-Birds persevered through all those weather challenges and both the men’s and women’s teams have qualified for the NAIA national championships.

The men go first, with their national tourney scheduled for May 16-19 at the TPC Deer Run in Silvas, Ill. It is has been something of an up-and-down season for the UBC men. “We were really doing well, we were ranked third or fourth at Christmas, but the weather hasn’t permitted us to do much practice and we dropped down to eighth and I think they have us ranked 16th in the tournament.”

MacDonald thinks his team deserves a higher ranking than that, especially considering how well the squad played when it won the Association of Independent Institutions conference title nearly two weeks ago in Indiana.

Led by senior Evan Holmes of Calgary, who won the individual title, the T-Birds beat the University of Victoria by six strokes to win the 54-hole conference championship tourney. “I feel like our ranking is too low for the quality of players that we do have,” MacDonald said.

“At the same time, (defending champion) Oklahoma City probably has the strongest team it ever has. William Woods and Johnson & Wales are the same. Those three teams are supposed to win this tournament, but I think we got on the right side of the draw. If our No. 4 and 5 players shoot somewhere around 73 to 75 I wouldn’t be surprised to see us in the top 5 at this tournament at the end of the week.”

UBC’s five-man team at the nationals will consist of Holmes, Jack Wood of Banff, Alta., Andrew Harrison of Camrose, Alta., Logan Carver of Calgary and Kamyar Yamini of Vancouver. Wood, Harrison and Holmes all played for UBC last year when the T-Birds finished second at the NAIA championship tourney. That trio knows the TPC Deer Run course well. MacDonald thinks the course, which is used for the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic every summer, sets up well for his players.

“We have played well at this course because it is a lot like Shaughnessy,” MacDonald said. “It has perfect greens that aren’t very big, you have to be accurate to find the fairways, but you can pick good lines off trees. It is a tree-lined course, so it feels very familiar to what we are used to. The greens are just perfect. If you get the ball on the right line you can make putts from distance. It’s a lot of fun to play.”

CHIP SHOTS: UBC is one of 29 teams in the national tourney. Victoria did not receive a tournament berth, but the Vikings’ top player, Lawren Rowe, will compete as an individual. . .The women’s national championship tourney goes May 23-26 at PGA National Golf Course in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.