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Vikings Look To Defend GNAC Title At Coeur d’Alene
Brett Johnson and Western Washington will look to defend their conference titles when the 2017 GNAC Men's Golf Championships return to Coeur d'Alene Resort Golf Course on Monday.
Brett Johnson and Western Washington will look to defend their conference titles when the 2017 GNAC Men's Golf Championships return to Coeur d'Alene Resort Golf Course on Monday.

Friday, April 21, 2017

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho – The 2017 GNAC Men’s Golf Championships begin on Monday at the Coeur d’Alene Resort Golf Course, where Western Washington will look for its second consecutive GNAC title after winning the event last year by an 18-stroke margin.

The West Region's sixth-ranked Vikings enter the tournament on a run of four consecutive top-five finishes in the spring portion of the season. The Vikings also boast three of the conference’s top seven golfers in strokes per round. The individual 2016 GNAC Champion Brett Johnson, who shot a 7-under-par 64 in the first round of last year’s event, ranks sixth in the conference this year in strokes per round with 73.6.

Senior Jeffrey Marcum finished last year’s championships in a tie for 14th, but ranks third in the conference this year in strokes per round with just under 73. Western Washington's statistical leader this season has been senior Chris Hatch with 72.9 strokes per round. He claimed a tie for third place at the Coeur d’Alene Resort in 2016.

Simon Fraser comes into the GNAC Championships looking for its second conference title in three years. The Clan took the longest break of any team leading up to the championships, playing its last event in March. In that event, the Northwest Nazarene Invitational, SFU won by 11 strokes with junior Chris Crisologo claiming the individual title with a score of 4-under-par 212.

Crisologo has won three individual titles this year and five in his career. He is still missing, however, the GNAC Championships title after coming close with top-3 finishes in both his freshman and sophomore seasons. Crisologo leads the conference this year by more than a full stroke with 71.5 strokes per round.

In its second year in the conference, Concordia is looking to capture its first title. The Cavaliers enter the tournament after a strong finish to its regular season at the Hanny Stanislaus Invitational. The Cavaliers took second place, finishing just one stroke behind Sonoma State after posting the tournament’s best third-round score. Concordia now ranks second in the conference in strokes per round as a team with 295.7.

Senior Ryan Melnychuk will be in the mix for the individual title. In 23 rounds this season, the University of Idaho transfer averages 73.5 strokes, ranking fifth in the GNAC. Dylan Cramer was named the GNAC Player of the Week on the final week of the regular season after he placed fifth at the Hanny Stanislaus Invitational with a score of 2-over-par 218.

Saint Martin’s, ranked No. 10 in the NCAA West Regional rankings, will be among the contenders for the team title after leading all GNAC teams at two of its four events this spring. The Saints finished in fourth place at the East/West Bay Area Invite ahead of Concordia and Montana State Billings. Two weeks later, they finished ahead of Simon Fraser and Northwest Nazarene at the NDNU Argonaut Invitational.

The Saints will have two serious contenders for the individual crown in Ryan Pickthorn and Andrew Raab, who both tied for 17th in the tournament last year. The two both rank among the conference’s top 10 in strokes per round and have a combined 12 top-10 finishes. Pickthorn led all GNAC athletes at the East/West Bay Area Invite in February with a score of 3-over-par 216. At the Mustang Intercollegiate, Raab led the 15 GNAC athletes in the field with a score of 4-under-par 212.

Northwest Nazarene won the conference title in 2014, but Ian Briske is the only remaining member of that team. Briske is one of four players on the team that averages better than 78 strokes per round. The Saints are led in that category by Jack Strickland, who averages 75.5 strokes per round and has two top-10 finishes this year.

Montana State Billings has lifted two team titles this year, including winning their own MSUB Yellowjacket Spring Invitational in the last week of March. Freshman Caleb Stetzner has already made an impact for MSUB in his first year, averaging a team-best 73.4 strokes per round. In the fall, Stetzner placed fourth out of 57 competitors at the Battlin’ Bears Invitational with a score of 4-under-par 209, leading the Yellowjackets to the team title.

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