Teeing off on the Palouse: Men’s golf hosts Itani Quality Homes Collegiate

From staff reports

After an encouraging 18-hole performance in the final round of the Husky Invitational on Tuesday, Washington State men’s golf Head Coach Garrett Clegg and his golfers will try to build off of a seventh place team finish as they host the Itani Quality Homes Colleigate.

Freshmen Aaron Whalen and AJ Armstrong and senior Derek Bayley all placed in the top 25 of a tournament that, including WSU, featured half of the Pac-12 conference. At the Itani – Sept. 28-29 at Palouse Ridge Golf Course – the Cougars will need to put forth similar efforts to defend their home turf as six fellow Pac-12 members head to Pullman to join another deep field.

Husky Invitational co-champions Oregon and Washington will once again be jockeying for position atop the leaderboard and will look to assert themselves as viable challengers to last year’s conference champion, Stanford. Oregon State and USC, who finished third and fourth last week, respectively, will be making the trip north. Arizona State and Utah will also compete at the event.

Clegg typically does not announce his varsity five prior to tee time, though the picture of his primary players is beginning to come into focus.

With a roster that only carries four upperclassmen, Clegg has already relied on his younger athletes to turn in consistent performances. Bayley has been the Cougars’ most steadfast shooter through two tournaments, and both Armstrong and Whalen are starting to card 54-hole scores closer to par and toward the top of leaderboards.

Senior Evan Omelia has shown flashes of brilliant golf in the past two tournaments – especially in his 38th place finish (+11, 224) at the Saint Mary’s Invitational, where he birdied four holes in the final round. Omelia unfortunately succumbed to the narrow fairways and uneven putting greens at Tumble Hills Golf Course in Cle Elum, Washington earlier this week, firing a three-round total of 19-over (232).

Nanaimo, British Columbia native sophomore Zach Anderson and Thai national senior Bhurinat Songpaiboon both have tournament experience this fall and are likely candidates to be given the final two starting spots from Clegg.

A par-70 course, Palouse Ridge is expected to provide the Cougars with a sense of familiarity and hopefully slow down their short game approaches. But experience with the course does not only apply to the Cougars. Last year’s Pac-12 Conference Championship was hosted by WSU, and all other members, save Utah, finished in front of the Cougars.

The three-round tournament will begin with an 8:30 a.m. shotgun start to kick off a 36-hole day on Monday, with the final round taking place on Tuesday.

In what promises to be another good sampling of how WSU stacks up with some of their conference’s best, a top-half finish will certainly require a complete two-day performance. Live updates of the tournament will be posted at birdiefire.com.

Reporting by Brady Johnson