By: Chase Gardiner/GCU Staff
Last year, they were rookies. This year, they were veterans.
After a second-place finish in their first ever appearance at a national tournament last spring, the Grand Canyon University Club Golf team was eager for the opportunity to prove that their success was no fluke. This past weekend gave them the chance they were seeking as they competed at the 2017 National Collegiate Club Golf Association (NCCGA) Fall Nationals held in Las Vegas, Nevada.
After regional play concluded, the Lopes managed to have two teams that qualified for national competition. Grand Canyon University (B) ended the year with a national ranking of 14th, while Grand Canyon University (A) came in ranked second, just behind the top-ranked Arizona State University (A) team.
“Between our two qualifying teams we have seven returning players,” noted Lopes’ Head Coach John Wasson. “That will really help us. Our experience in Arkansas [last year] was a learning one. I feel like our players are glad to have that under their belts, and can really focus on the task at hand. Having that many players with experience is huge!”
While past experience was sure to be a key factor of the team’s success over the weekend, Wasson also knew that his teams had plenty of playing experience. “This fall we have played more weekly nine-hole “mini’ tournaments,” said Wasson. “Having that extra competitive golf experience should pay dividends.”
Combining experience and preparation, the Lopes’ A team closed out round one of competition with a hold on fourth place, while being only four shots away from second. Meanwhile, the B team found themselves in third place, as part of a separate pool. With another round of play scheduled the next day, the Lopes were looking forward for the chance to move further up the leaderboard.
Unfortunately, due to unforeseen weather conditions, that chance would never come. As very heavy winds began to blow that day, the second round of competition was cancelled, and placements were finalized. GCU’s A team officially finished fourth in their pool, with the B team snagging a third-place finish. Additionally, the Lopes’ Jordan Yamamoto and Luke Johanson were named to the NCCA All-Tournament team after individual placements of fourth and eighth, respectively.
While the top of the leaderboard may have eluded the Lopes this time, they will use that as motivation looking ahead to 2018 Spring Nationals. “Golf is full of ups and downs,” noted Wasson. “It’s how you handle the potholes that determines the winner.”