Beyond Par: Jordan Lee Is GNAC Male Athlete Of The Year
Jordan Lee shot par or below in 26 of his 30 rounds played during the 2022-23 season.
Jordan Lee shot par or below in 26 of his 30 rounds played during the 2022-23 season.

Thursday, June 15, 2023

PORTLAND, Ore. – One of the best seasons in GNAC men’s golf history nearly didn’t happen.

With four seasons already under his belt thanks to a pair of abbreviated years during the COVID-19 pandemic, Western Washington senior Jordan Lee considered taking the season off, concentrating on his studies and looking ahead to whatever was next.

Thankfully for the Vikings and the conference, Lee decided to come back. He proceeded to put together one of the best individual seasons in conference history and helped Western Washington earn its first berth in the NCAA Division II Men’s Golf Championship since 2017.

The banner year has earned Lee selection as the 2022-23 Great Northwest Athletic Conference Men’s Athlete of the Year. It marks the first time that a golfer, male or female, has won the conference’s top athlete award.

“It hasn’t really settled in. I can’t really believe it yet,” Lee said of winning the honor. “It is an honor to win this award. With graduation and all of the golf awards, it is all been kind of surreal.”

While the flurry of honors is surreal for Lee, his senior season was one of surreal proportions at the Division II level. Playing in 11 events and 30 rounds this season, Lee shot at or below par in an incredible 26 times. He closed the year with 13 straight below-par rounds. During the spring season, Lee shot above par just once when he carded a 2-over-par 74 in the second round of the Battle In The Desert on Feb. 28.

Lee won three tournaments this season, finishing in the top five seven times and in the top 10 nine times. The victories came in three consecutive tournaments in the spring. He won the Hanny Stanislaus Invitational by two strokes on Mar. 28, tied for first at the NCAA West Regional Spring Preview on Apr. 11 and posted a nine-stroke victory at the GNAC Championships on Apr. 25.

As the spring progressed, Lee only played stronger. After a sixth-place finish at the Battle In The Desert, Lee finished no worse than second at any tournament.

That included two of Division II’s top events. Lee was in contention for the title in all three rounds of the NCAA West/South Central Super Regional in mid-May. His scores dropped each day from a 1-under-par 71 in the opening round to a 3-under-par 69 in the second round and a 5-under-par 67 in the final round. Lee ended at 9-under-par 207, three strokes behind Sonoma State’s Griffin Pace, who shot three rounds of 68 on his team’s home course. Lee’s performance led the Vikings to a tie for the regional title.

At the Division II Championships in Ohio, Lee was never outside of the individual top 10 and was in contention for the championship after two rounds. A round of 5-under-par 67, which included seven birdies, pulled Lee into a tie for second place. He recorded four birdies and an eagle in his final collegiate round to finish at 3-under-par 69 and 10-under-par 206 for the tournament to finish two strokes behind Palm Beach Atlantic’s Andrew Riley for medalist honors.

Lee was content to just let things happen during his final collegiate season but he didn’t expect the big year that he put together. “That was the key to my season,” Lee said. “There were a lot of ups and downs but this year everything seemed to click.”

And, of course, the honors followed. A three-time First Team All-GNAC selection, Lee was the unanimous choice of coaches as the 2022-23 GNAC Men’s Golf Player of the Year. He earned First Team All-West Region honors and became just the third player in conference history to be named a Golf Coaches Association of America First Team All-American, joining a pair of legends in Western Washington’s Jake Koppenberg (2009) and Simon Fraser’s Chris Crisologo (2017). The banner season also earned Lee selection as one of Western Washington’s Athletes of the Year.

Lee’s nine top-10 rounds tied the GNAC single-season record while his 86.6% of rounds under par (26-30) smashed the conference record. The previous record holder, Crisologo, shot 19 of 28 rounds under par in 2017. His season stroke average of 70.3 set both GNAC and WWU single-season records.

For his five-year collegiate career, Lee set records with 44 events and 124 rounds played, breaking records previously held by WWU’s Chris Hatch (2013-17). His season-low round of 65 at the Dennis Rose Intercollegiate is tied for the ninth-lowest fall season round in conference history. Lee’s career stroke average of 72.9 is the fourth-best in conference history behind Crisologo (71.24), Koppenberg (71.4) and Saint Martin’s Andrew Raab (72.61).

Lee graduated from WWU last week with a degree in multidisciplinary studies with a focus on business. But the business of golf will be Lee’s immediate post-graduation focus.

While the idea of turning pro had been on Lee’s mind early in his career, his 2022-23 season turned it from a dream to a tangible reality. In between the GNAC Championships and the NCAA West/South Central Super Regional, Lee posted carded a 5-under-par 67 to win a local qualifying round for the U.S. Open on May 1. He tied for 31st in a Canadian Tour qualifier in Victoria, British Columbia on Monday. His round of 1-over-par 73 was only his second over-par round of 2023.

And while the journey towards making the pro tours continue, Lee can sit back, reflect and enjoy the season that was.

“My family has been a big part of my journey, through the highs and lows,” Lee said. “This last year has been amazing.”

The GNAC Athlete and Scholar-Athlete of the Year awards are nominated by and voted upon by the conference’s athletic directors.

Other nominees for the 2022-23 GNAC Male Athlete of the Year Award included Alaska Anchorage sophomore Coleman Nash (cross country/track and field), Montana State Billings senior Carrington Wiggins (basketball), Northwest Nazarene sophomore Steven Schmidt (track and field), Seattle Pacific junior Shaw Anderson (basketball), Simon Fraser senior Charlie Dannatt (cross country/track and field) and Western Oregon senior Derek Maiben (baseball).