SPOKANE, Wash. – The 2012 Northwest Conference men’s tennis championship will be decided this coming weekend as Whitworth hosts the 2012 NWC Tournament at Canyon Lakes Golf Course in Kennewick, Washington.
The tournament will get underway on Saturday with a 1:00 p.m. shotgun start and will conclude on Sunday with a 7:30 a.m. shotgun start.
Defending Northwest Conference champion Linfield used an outstanding performance at last year’s NWC Tournament at Canyon Lakes to vault to the league title. The conference determines its annual champion by the combined results of the NWC Fall Classic (25%), NWC Spring Classic (25%) and NWC Tournament (50%). Last season the Wildcats went into the NWC Tournament in third place in the league standings, but won the final event to vault past Puget Sound and Pacific into the league title.
This season the roles are reversed. Linfield heads into the NWC Tournament with 15 points based on the results of the Fall and Spring Classics, two points ahead of Whitman (13). Puget Sound (12) and Whitworth (11) are also waiting in the wings should the teams ahead of them falter this weekend.
Weather and course conditions will play their own role in this weekend’s action. Scores have traditionally been higher when the NWC Tournament has been held in previous years at Canyon Lakes.
“I expect the course to play fairly difficult for our conference tournament,” said Whitworth head coach Warren Friedrichs. “We played there this past weekend and the greens were very firm and fast. It made it difficult to hit shots from the fairway close to the hole. Putting on those fast greens was also very demanding especially on any downhill putts. “
Friedrichs believes that the balance of power within the league and the challenging course could make for a wide-open tournament.
“The men’s conference race is as close as I can remember with a number of teams in the hunt for the final league championship,” Friedrichs said. “Linfield leads the points race and has to be the favorite going into the tournament. But Whitman, Whitworth, UPS and PLU all have a chance if they finish first this weekend since the points are doubled for the conference championship tournament. This is the deepest competitive group of teams that I have seen in my nine years as our golf coach. “
The race for individual Player of the Year honors is wide open as well. Whitworth’s Jesse Salzwedel, who won the NWC Spring Classic, leads the chase with 21.5 points, followed closely by PLU’s Dustin Hegge (21 – NWC Fall medalist) and Whitman’s Scott Martin (20.5). Defending NWC Tournament champion Alex Fitch of Linfield (14.5) is a talented veteran who is also right in the mix.
Friedrich’s Pirates just came off of a one-day event at Canyon Lakes on Saturday were Whitworth defeated Whitman and Pacific. The final team scores were: Whitworth 321, Whitman 326 and Pacific 332. Salzwedel (76) and Stephen Plopper (77) finished first and second individually for the Pirates.
Friedrichs is cautiously optimistic for his team.
“We will need to get a great team effort if we want to finish at the top of the league this weekend,” Friedrichs said. “We have been getting two good scores out of four but have not been able to put four good scores together consistently. Jesse has been our most consistent player and has a chance for All Conference honors based on good finishes in both conference counters. Stephen (Plopper) also has a chance at All Conference honors with a good weekend.”