Aaron Pauls has authored many memorable moments over the years with the University of the Fraser Valley men’s golf team, and he made sure his last tournament as a member of the Cascades fit that description.
The Chilliwack product came into Friday’s fourth and final round of the Canadian University/College Championship at Cutten Fields in Guelph, Ont. tied for the individual lead. And while he didn’t end up taking home the title, he did finish third to earn All-Canadian honours and secure a spot on Canada’s three-member men’s squad for the 2015 Summer Universiade. That event will be held in Gwangju, South Korea in July.
On the team front, Pauls and fellow Cascades Connor O’Dell, Zachary Olson, Connor McLellan and Cody Stewart combined to finish fourth overall, matching the program’s best-ever finish at the Golf Canada event. The Cascades men also finished fourth in 2010.
In addition, Cascades head coach Chris Bertram was named coach of the year by the Golf Coaches Association of Canada, capping a much-decorated 2014-15 season which also saw him win the coach of the year awards for the PacWest conference and the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association (CCAA).
“It seems like the coaching awards follow the success of the team,” Bertram said. “We have a good mix of players, and we have a good thing going in the program. It’s nice, and humbling, to get recognition for that.”
It’s the second straight summer that Pauls, UFV’s male athlete of the year for 2014-15, will represent Canada in international play – in 2014, he took part in the World University Golf Championships in Switzerland. This year’s national team berth is particularly special because Bertram will serve as head coach of the Canadian men’s squad at the Universiade.
UBC’s Evan Holmes won the individual men’s title, finishing at even par for the tournament, while Russell Bowie of the Queen’s Golden Gaels posted the low round of the day – a three-under 67 – to move into second place at +2. Pauls carded a two-over 72 on Friday to end up at +3, one stroke better than UBC’s Scott Secord and UVic’s Michael Griffin and enough to earn the last spot on the podium.
“I feel good about it, because I just didn’t have it today,” said Pauls, who became the first-ever Cascade to finish top-three at the Golf Canada event. “To shoot two-over was a good day for me, just being in the situation I was in (seeking to qualify for the Universiade) and not having my A game. I was grinding pretty hard.
“It was a pretty unbelievable experience last year (at the World University Championships). I’d never done anything like that before. But this is kind of special in a different way, given that this was my last event as a Cascade. To be able to have one more tournament with Chris as head coach is special. This was my goal for the entire semester.
“I did what I set out to do at the beginning of this tournament, so I’m pretty happy about that.”
“Aaron didn’t have his best stuff today, but in typical Aaron Pauls fashion, he managed to get it around,” Bertram said. “To come top three and earn a spot on this Universiade team, it’s just a massive accomplishment. He continues to set the bar for UFV student-athletes, and I know he’ll do a great job in Korea. I couldn’t be prouder.”
The UBC Thunderbirds won their fourth men’s team title, pulling away in the final round and finishing with a four-round cumulative total of 23 over par. The Victoria Vikes (+35) took second, while the Toronto Varsity Blues (+46) rallied past the Cascades (+48) on the back nine to claim third place.
O’Dell (+14 for the tournament, tied for 25th place), Olson (+15, T31), McLellan (+20, T52) and Stewart (+30, 62nd) took turns boosting the Cascades’ fortunes throughout the event. Olson and McLellan posted their best rounds of the week on Friday, with matching two-over 72s.
The Cascades were the top-finishing CCAA team in the field, and one of two to make the 10-team cut (the eighth-place Humber Hawks were the other).
“We knew that we had to go out today and get after it early and see if we could try to make a dent into that UBC lead,” Bertram said. “We had a few things going early, but UBC was really strong. We had take a few risks and not all of them paid off. But I’m really proud of the way the guys played.”
Complete team and individual results can be found at the following link: https://golfcanada.bluegolf.com/bluegolf/rcga15/event/rcga155/contest/6/leaderboard.htm