Cascade golfers happy to be home for nationals

Connor McLellan tackles the course he's most comfortable with as Chilliwack Golf Club hosts the 2015 PING CCAA National championships.

After more than a year of preparation and planning, the 2015 PING CCAA National Championships are set to take over Chilliwack Golf Club.

Next week, Oct. 13-16, the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) tournament will be hosted by the University of the Fraser Valley Cascades for the first time. The event brings together 14 men’s teams, 11 women’s teams and 103 golfers in total. It will be a true national championship, with competitors literally from coast to coast – from Vancouver Island (Victoria’s Camosun College Chargers) to Prince Edward Island (Charlottetown’s Holland College Hurricanes).

“Right now, the course is in about as good of shape as it’s been in all year,” UFV Cascades head coach Chris Bertram said. “It’s a very playable golf course – it’s very friendly, but it’s got some good, tough holes. I think that everybody is going to be really happy to be out here, playing on the West Coast.

“It’s going to feel like a really first-class event, and that’s certainly been our goal all throughout the planning – to give the all of the student-athletes an experience they’ll remember.”

Both of 2014’s CCAA team champions – the Holland Hurricanes (men) and the Cégep Champlain St. Lawrence Lions (women) – will be returning to nationals to defend their titles. The Hurricanes are looking to go back-to-back after winning the first national crown in program history last season, while the Lions have a record four women’s championships to their credit and are chasing a fifth. Lorelle Weavers of the Niagara College Knights, last year’s individual women’s champ, is also back in the field and aiming to defend her crown.

The host UFV Cascades, meanwhile, are just two years removed from sweeping the team gold medals at CCAA nationals, and they won women’s team silver and men’s team bronze in 2014. They have the added benefit of playing at their home course as they seek a return to glory.

The Cascades men’s and women’s teams both finished second in the PacWest conference this season. But individual victories by Hannah Dirksen and Connor O’Dell at the regular season finale, the UFV Invitational, give the Cascades plenty of momentum heading into nationals.

“My confidence heading into (the PacWest finale) was probably at a six, now I feel like I’m at an 11,” said Dirksen, a second-year Cascade from Mission, B.C. “It just gives me so much hope heading into nationals.

“Just to know you’re at a course where you know every inch of the golf course, it really drops a lot of the nerves and wondering what you’re heading into for nationals. It’s kind of a relief to be playing at home, and it feels really great.”

“We’ve known for a long time that it was going to be here at Chilliwack, so all of us are very excited that we get to host a national championship,” O’Dell echoed. “It’s a huge advantage playing your own golf course – you know where to hit the ball and where not to.”

Next Tuesday, the PING CCAA Golf National Championships commence with morning registration and opening ceremonies at Chilliwack Golf Club, an afternoon practice round, and an evening CCAA awards banquet at the Ramada Plaza & Conference Centre in Abbotsford.

On Wednesday, the tournament officially tees off, with the first round beginning at 8:30 a.m. Thursday’s second round and Friday’s third (and final) round also start at 8:30 a.m.

Golf Canada and the Vancouver Golf Tour will be providing live scoring, which will be available through the championship website: ccaa.ca/national-championship-s15047