The University of the Fraser Valley men’s golf team staged a massive final-round rally on Friday at the PING CCAA Golf National Championships to earn the bronze medal.
Playing at their home course, Chilliwack Golf Club, the Cascades men came into the day in seventh place, 17 strokes back of the front-running Niagara College Knights and eight strokes back of a podium position.
But they caught fire on Friday, combining for the best team score of the day – a two-under 286. That boosted them into third place with a cumulative three-round total of 873, one stroke better than the Georgian Grizzlies (874).
It’s the seventh time in nine years that the UFV golf program has placed at least one team on the podium at CCAA nationals, and in light of how far back they were to start the day, bronze felt pretty sweet.
“There’s good ways and bad ways to come in third place, and this was definitely a great way to get third,” Cascades head coach Chris Bertram said. “I’m really proud of the team coming up with the best score of the final day of the tournament.
“We had a tall task today. We said that if we did everything we needed to do, third was in sight. And you know, they stepped up. They played great, and they earned it.”
Leading the way for the Cascades was fourth-year standout Connor O’Dell. The two-time CCAA All-Canadian from Maple Ridge carded a two-under 70 on Friday – one of the best individual rounds of the day. That boosted him into a tie for sixth place at -1 for the tournament, and he earned all-star honours as a top-six finisher.
O’Dell was also the male recipient of the Fair Play Award, in recognition of his sportsmanship throughout the week.
“He’s a great player, he’s a great person to play golf with, and it’s great to see him recognized,” Bertram said. “Everyone who plays with him talks about how much of a gentleman he is on the golf course. He makes our program and our university very proud.”
Chilliwack’s Connor McLellan finished tied for 13th overall at +2 for the tourney, after firing a one-over 73 on Friday. Zach Olson shot a tidy one-under 71 to finish tied for 20th, while Nathan Bahnman (+2 on Friday, +9 for the tourney, T32) and Cody Stewart (even par on Friday, +10 for the tourney, T38) also contributed to the comeback.
The Camosun Chargers won the men’s team championship with a cumulative 860 strokes, and the Niagara Knights (868) took second.
This week marked the first time UFV had hosted the PING CCAA Golf National Championships. The 2016 edition of the tournament will be hosted by Holland College in Charlottetown, PEI.
“Getting great weather is a really big piece of the puzzle when it comes to hosting a golf tournament, and we certainly did well on that front,” Bertram said. “But the staff here at the golf course, the staff of the athletics department, and the communities of Abbotsford and Chilliwack really came together and made everybody feel welcome. We can’t wait to do it again someday.”