Vikings Lead Impressive Men's Golf Field Into Coeur d'Alene
Last year's medalist at the GNAC Championships, Ethan Casto is among five Western Washington players leading the league in stroke average.
Last year's medalist at the GNAC Championships, Ethan Casto is among five Western Washington players leading the league in stroke average.

Friday, April 19, 2019

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho – Western Washington may enter the 2019 GNAC Men’s Golf Championships as the conference favorite, but a strong field up and down the league will make for a competitive tournament on April 22-23 at the Coeur d’Alene Resort Golf Course.

The Vikings, ranked No. 2 in the NCAA Division II West Region Rankings, are looking for their third GNAC title in the last four years and their ninth overall in program history. Returning to the site of his individual title a year ago, junior Ethan Casto will help lead his team into Coeur d’Alene.

Casto (72.9 strokes per round) is just one of five Vikings who lead the GNAC in terms of scoring average. Freshman sensation Jordan Lee leads the team and conference with a clip of 72.3, while senior Nick Sparling follows right behind at 72.4. Fellow seniors Michael Butler and Cody Roth round out the top five with averages of 72.6 and 73.1, respectively.

The team is coming off an impressive showing at the Mustang Intercollegiate earlier this month in which Casto earned medalist honors while posting the lowest spring season 54-hole score in GNAC history. He led his team to a second-place finish in Goodyear, Arizona, marking WWU’s eighth top-five finish (six team titles) in nine events this season.

Defending champion Simon Fraser enters the GNAC Championships looking for back-to-back titles. Hoping to replicate some of last year’s success, juniors Sy Lovan and Scott Kerr are back after finishing inside the top-five at Coeur d’Alene last year.

The pair currently rank second and third on the Clan in scoring average behind freshman Isaac Lee, who is slotted seventh in the conference at a clip of 73.6. Lee has three top-five finishes in his first year in Burnaby, including a 10-under-par showing at the Dixie State Regional Preview to earn medalist honors.

Simon Fraser comes into the GNAC Championships having played just three spring tournaments. The team is heating up at the right time, however, with its last appearance resulting in a second-place finish at the Hanny Stanislaus Invitational. They rank second in the GNAC with an average of 294.8 strokes per round and are slotted at No. 6 in the latest NCAA Division II West Region Rankings.

Concordia expects to be in contention as the team returns two of its players from last year’s conference tournament. The reigning GNAC Newcomer of the Year, junior Jaxson Daskalos, leads the Cavaliers and is ranked sixth in the conference with a 73.2 average. He has posted a trio of top-five finishes this season and won the Yellowjacket Fall Invitational back in his first start of the year. He will now set his sights on building on his top-10 finish at the 2018 GNAC Championships.

Also shining for CU this year have been sophomores Riley Killip and Luke Travins, posting stroke averages of 73.9 and 75.1, respectively. As a team, it has achieved five top-five finishes this year and took home the Yellowjacket Fall Invitational title by a seven-stroke margin. Concordia is third in the GNAC with a 295.8 scoring average and is ranked No. 8 in the NCAA Division II West Region Rankings.

Looking to start the postseason off on the right foot, Saint Martin’s will be led by sophomore Tyler Fitchett. The Yakima, Wash. product tied for 17th a season ago and has been the Saints most consistent player this year, leading the team with a 74.4 average and an individual title at the NDNU Invitational in March.

The Saints have posted a trio of seventh-place finishes this year, coming at the Saint Martin’s, Western Washington and Bay Area Invitationals. The most recent one came at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, where senior Trevor Frisby (tied for ninth) and Fitchett (tied for 15th) finished inside the top-15 to lead the team’s efforts. Frisby will come into Coeur d’Alene with plenty of confidence after placing fifth in his only previous GNAC Championships start two years ago.

Northwest Nazarene enters the GNAC Championships looking for its first conference title since 2014. This year, the Nighthawks will be led by Boise native Henry Bernard, who has built on a solid sophomore campaign to top the team in stroke average at 74.6. Bernard has posted two top-10 finishes this year and finished tied for 19th in his last event at the Mustang Intercollegiate. The team is averaging 305.8 strokes per round.

Rounding out the field in Coeur d’Alene will be Montana State Billings. The Yellowjackets are led by Garrett Woodin, who enters the postseason with a 75.4 scoring average. The team will be looking to replicate some of the success it saw at the start of the spring season, where MSUB placed seventh in two of its first three tournaments. With five players tallying at least 22 rounds on the year, it heads to the conference tournament with one of the most experienced rosters in the field.