For all the incredible success the University of the Fraser Valley men’s golf team has achieved over the past decade, one tournament title has eluded them: the Golf Canada University/College Championship.
The Cascades have won five of the past six PacWest conference titles, and have medaled six times at the CCAA national championships since 2007, including gold in 2013 and bronze last fall. But their best-ever result at the Golf Canada event is fourth (2010), and last year they finished fifth after coming in as the No. 1 seed.
All of which is to say, head coach Chris Bertram’s crew has a chance to make some program history this week as they tee it up against 19 university and college teams from across the nation at Cutten Fields in Guelph, Ont. The 72-hole stroke play event tees off Tuesday and wraps up Friday.
“From the perspective of our players, it’s maybe the highest-profile event we play throughout the year,” said Bertram, who identified the defending champion Manitoba Bisons along with the UBC Thunderbirds and Victoria Vikes (both three-time men’s division winners) as the teams to beat. “Having those bigger schools there adds some cachet to the event, because we don’t see them throughout the year.
“And although we’ve never won this particular event, we’ve been close. Our current group of players have great confidence in their abilities and are excited for the challenge.”
The Cascades are coming in with plenty of reason for confidence – last weekend, Aaron Pauls and Connor McLellan finished one-two in the amateur division at the Vancouver Golf Tour’s Major #2 at Chilliwack Golf Club (the Cascades’ home course). The two Chilliwack natives will be joined at the Golf Canada event by Connor O’Dell (Maple Ridge, B.C.), Zachary Olson (Strathmore, Alta.) and Cody Stewart (Abbotsford).
“It’s a really big deal when we see our top couple of players having a result like that (on the VGT),” Bertram said. “To win a team event like the Golf Canada championship, your best players have to be your best players. It bolsters the confidence of the entire lineup.”
Bertram’s status as head coach of the Canadian men’s golf team for the 2015 Summer Universiade is another fascinating subplot this week. The top three finishers at Golf Canada event will comprise the Canadian team that Bertram will coach at the Universiade, which runs July 3-14 in Gwangju, South Korea.
“That’s something that’s playing in the back of everybody’s mind, and I’ll be interested,” Bertram said. “It will be tempting to think forward to that event in South Korea, but just like our team does, I have to keep my eyes on what’s going on this week. If it should work out in the Cascades’ favour (with a UFV golfer qualifying for Team Canada), that would be a really nice cherry on top. But the priority is winning that team title.”
Scoring updates and additional tournament information for the Golf Canada University/College Championship can be found at: https://golfcanada.bluegolf.com/bluegolf/rcga15/event/rcga155/index.htm