If the Saint Martin’s men’s golf team was going to have any chance at last week’s conference championship, Saints coach Kevin Bishop knew his golfers were going to have to take care of business on the par-5 holes. To emphasize his point, he told his players they’d have to run a half-mile every time they didn’t at least par a par-5.
“They’re always going into the hole thinking they want to birdie it,” Bishop said.
That grip-it-and-rip-it approach led to more bogeys than birdies. So Bishop, in an attempt to change the mindset, inserted his run rule.
It worked at the Great Northwest Athletic Conference championship. By curbing the bogeys on the par 5s, Saint Martin’s placed second at the GNAC meet and will advance to regionals for the third straight year. The 54-hole Central/West Regional will be played May 2-4 at Albuquerque, N.M.
“They wanted to know if they got any extra credit if they got a birdie,” Bishop said. “I said no.”
Besides Bishop’s prod for pars, he also knew Zach Dietz’s bad knee was going to have to stay healthy. In the fall, Dietz was ranked as high as sixth in the nation after tying for first in a tournament hosted by Chico State. But then he twisted his knee golfing. He’s healthy again and swinging the clubs well.
SMU’s top five are close in tournament averages. Matt Epstein leads at 73.9, Steve Cable is at 74.6, and both Sheldon Prante and Dietz are at 75.5. Kevin Jech, the fifth Saints player headed to the regional, averages 76.3.
Cable, Jech and Prante have been teammates as far back as the Black Hills High School golf team.
“This spring, who our No. 1 is has jumped around,” Bishop said. “Everyone has contributed.”
At the GNAC event where the Saints placed second behind Western Washington, Dietz was second after rounds of 73-75-74 for a 9-over-par 222 total at the Coeur d’Alene Resort. Epstein was fourth at 226 (76-75-75) and Cable was seventh at 227(76-72-79).
“Cable is our most improved player,” Bishop said. “He’s changed his mode of competitiveness.”
In the past, Cable figured he had a good round if he shot better than his teammates. Bishop got him to broaden his thinking to include opponents.
“Now, he’s found his swagger,” Bishop said. “He lowered his comfort zone, which used to be if he beat guys on his team he was content.”
Bishop likes the Saints’ chances at regionals.
“We’re getting smarter on the golf course,” Bishop said. “We’re playing our best golf right now. We may surprise a few people in Albuquerque.”
The top five schools and top two individuals from non-qualifying schools advance to the NCAA Division II championship, May 16-20 in Alabama.
CARLSON TRIMS MARK
Karissa Carlson wasn’t intimidated.
Racing against a strong field that included NCAA Division I runners, Carlson, a junior at The Evergreen State College, placed fourth in the 800 meters at the Oregon Relays at historic Hayward Field in Eugene.
She finished in 2:15.8, breaking the school record she set last week by more than a second.
Gail Wood: 360-754-5443 email@example.com