NNU Men's Golf Named Team of the Week
NNU senior Nick Hardy was a first team all-conference selection, and is headed to the NCAA regional tournament this week in Austin, Texas.
NNU senior Nick Hardy was a first team all-conference selection, and is headed to the NCAA regional tournament this week in Austin, Texas.

Monday, April 28, 2014
by Evan O'Kelly, Media Relations Assistant

PORTLAND, Ore. – When senior Nick Hardy heads to Austin, Texas, later this week for the 2014 NCAA men’s golf regional tournament, it will be icing on the cake in a memorable season for Northwest Nazarene.

“Nick had the singular goal of making it to the national tournament,” NNU head coach Craig Stensgaard commented on Hardy’s mindset entering his final collegiate season. “His drive and leadership by example have been a big influence on our team. He has a tremendous work ethic, and I am excited that he was rewarded and able to reach his goal with a trip to Austin.”

While Hardy’s individual success is a testament to perseverance and strong coaching, it was the team surrounding Hardy that made an even bigger statement last week by winning the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Men’s Golf Championships.

The Crusaders entered a playoff hole tied with Saint Martin’s, and emerged victorious to capture the conference team title. NNU has earned GNAC Team of the Week honors for its accomplishment.

“Going into the tournament, we felt that if we played well it was going to be really close,” Stensgaard said. “Our conference is so tight and competitive that you could be in first or be in fifth and those two teams would literally be five strokes apart.”

Stensgaard’s comments held true at the GNAC Championships, as three teams were within six strokes of one another after the first 36 holes of competition.

NNU rallied during the final round, and when the numbers were crunched and an identical team score with Saint Martin’s was the result, both teams prepared themselves for a dramatic finish.

“That was a pretty unique situation, and I have never been with a team in a playoff situation like that,” said Stensgaard. “That was an experience that everyone involved will never forget, especially with that much on the line.”

One golfer who rose to the occasion was junior Connor Magnuson, who stepped to the tee box on the first hole of the course having steadily improved in each of the prior three times from the same mark.

Magnuson notched a par on the first hole in Round 1, followed by birdies on the hole in each of the next two rounds. Saving his best for last, Magnuson fired an impressive tee shot, approached the green and made a 10-foot putt for an eagle on the par-5 playoff hole.

“Knowing he was going to be the leadoff guy for us going into the playoff hole, there was nothing but excitement in his eyes,” Stensgaard said of Magnuson. “He was fired up and the adrenaline was pumping, but he was able to keep himself calm. He is one of the emotional leaders on this team, and guys draw off of his energy.”

Feeding off of Magnuson’s positive mindset is something that was amplified during the playoff hole, as it is often times difficult for emotional leaders to have a full impact in regular rounds.

“Our sport can be solitary at times, because everyone is spread throughout the course playing his or her own round,” Stensgaard said of the inherent isolation associated with golf. “That playoff hole was really a team effort because we could see exactly what everyone was doing and we were all out there together.” 

As Magnuson’s eagle putt fell, and his teammates each followed with par putts to seal the victory, NNU captured its second-ever conference championship, joining the school’s 2001 men’s cross country team.

“I appreciate our team because they’re a great example and representation of NNU and what we are all about as a Christian university,” Stensgaard said of the significance of the win. “Within our athletic department, we always talk about how when one team wins it helps to motivate other coaches. It shows that a goal that we are all striving for is attainable, no matter who wins it.”