Connor O’Dell gave the host University of the Fraser Valley Cascades plenty to cheer about during Round 1 of the PING CCAA Golf National Championships.
O’Dell, a fourth-year Cascade from Maple Ridge, B.C., looked tremendously confident at Chilliwack Golf Club on Wednesday. Just over a week removed from a victory on the same course at the PacWest conference’s UFV Invitational, he surged to the top of the individual men’s leaderboard at nationals on the strength of a sparkling five-under 67.
O’Dell’s round featured seven birdies against two bogeys, and the two-time All-Canadian opened a two-stroke margin over Stephen Brown of the Lambton College Lions and Mark Wikkerink of the Niagara College Knights, who shot matching rounds of 69.
Chilliwack product Connor McLellan also had an excellent start for the Cascades, carding a two-under 70. He’s in a six-way tie for fourth place. Nathan Bahnman (two-over 74, T28), Zach Olson (76, T43) and Cody Stewart (79, T57) rounded out the UFV men’s performances.
The Cascades men sit second in the team standings with a cumulative total of 287, three strokes back of the Niagara College Knights (284). The defending champion Holland College Hurricanes (289) are third.
“Today’s round was typical of what we see every day with Connor (O’Dell),” Cascades head coach Chris Bertram said. “He’s a super-talented player, and he feels really comfortable at Chilliwack. I’m not even slightly surprised he went out and shot five under par today.
“It was exactly the kind of day you want to have to start a national championship. We had some strong individual performances from Connor and Connor, and getting a team score under par and being just a couple strokes back is good positioning in my mind.”
On the women’s side, rookie Jennifer Kell was the top Cascade, opening with a round of 87 that leaves her in 14th place overall. PacWest champion Hannah Dirksen carded a 94 to sit tied for 20th, while Ciara Melhus (105) is 27th.
Sonia Nagindas of the Humber College Hawks fired an opening-round 76 to claim a three-stroke lead on a trio of pursuers: her Humber teammate Sheila McKeen, Emilie Tyndall of the Georgian College Grizzlies, and Carolyn Lee of the UBC Okanagan Heat.
With Nagindas and McKeen leading the way, the Hawks posted a combined score of 155 (+11) to take a four-stroke lead over the Georgian Grizzlies (159). The Cascades (181) are in sixth place.
“These are three national championship rookies, and I think some of the nerves got to them today,” Bertram said of his squad. “But I expect them to bounce back and play better tomorrow.”