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SFU Men's Golf Named Team of the Week
Simon Fraser junior John Mlikotic tied for 14th at the Cal Baptist Invite last week, helping the Clan to a tie for second place as a team.
Simon Fraser junior John Mlikotic tied for 14th at the Cal Baptist Invite last week, helping the Clan to a tie for second place as a team.

Monday, March 31, 2014

PORTLAND, Ore. – For the second time in three weeks, the men’s golf team at Simon Fraser finished in second place in a tournament in California, most recently completing the feat last week at the Cal Baptist Invitational.

The Clan finished the three-round event with a score of 875 (282-292-301), tying with Colorado Christian for second place among the 18-team field. SFU was the highest placing of four Great Northwest Athletic Conference teams at the tournament, and was named the GNAC Team of the Week for the outstanding performance.

“We got second place at the previous tournament at Notre Dame de Namur, but this was quite a different course terrain wise,” SFU head coach John Buchanan commented. “This was a bigger tournament with 18 teams and I thought we played pretty well starting off.”

SFU led the field after the first round, as the mark of 282 was two strokes lower than the next best team. The team faded a bit over the final two rounds, but the strong start was enough to keep SFU towards the top of the leader board.

“Any time you finish that high you don’t feel like you’ve failed, but the lesson learned was that we needed to play it one hole at a time,” Buchanan said of the higher scores of 292 and 301 in the second and third rounds.

Pacing the Clan at the Cal Baptist Invite was Michael Belle, who finished in a tie for 10th place with an even-par 216 (71-70-75). “Mike was sub par his first two rounds, and you can’t ask for much more than that,” said Buchanan. “He is our one senior on the team and he certainly did his bit.”

Belle currently ranks second in the GNAC overall, with an average score of 73.6 over 17 rounds so far in the 2013-14 season. 

Close behind the senior at the Cal Baptist Invite was John Mlikotic, who shot a two-over par 218 (70-73-75). Sophomore Bret Thompson was tied for the lead after shooting a 67 in the first round, and he finished with a six-over par 222 (67-77-78) overall on the tournament.

“We came out of the gate and really lit the place up,” Buchanan said of the team’s strong start. “We still have a lot of relatively new players who haven’t been in that type of situation often, but psychologically they will begin to understand how to play ahead.”

In the school’s second year of NCAA eligibility, SFU has experienced a dramatic climb up the regional rankings and has become a legitimate contender to earn a spot in the West Regional tournament.

“We are a little bit ahead of where I thought we’d be at this time, so kudos to the guys who have gotten us here,” Buchanan commented. 

As SFU prepares for the GNAC tournament on April 21-22, the next stop on the schedule could be the team’s biggest test so far this season. 

The Clan will return to California on April 14, participating in the highly competitive Cal State Stanislaus Invitational in Turlock. “That tournament will have a really strong field, with teams like Chico State and Monterey Bay,” Buchanan said regarding the upcoming competition. “If we can stay in the middle of the pack I think we will probably be in a really decent position in terms of getting into regionals.”

Finishing close behind SFU at the Cal Baptist Invite last week were a pair of familiar foes, as Western Washington checked in at fourth with an 880 (285-293-302) and Saint Martin’s was just one stroke behind in fifth with an 881 (293-292-296). 

“There is certainly not the length of a street between the teams in this conference,” Buchanan said. “We know it is going to be competitive right up until the end of the season and into the conference championships.”

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