It was the right result in the right tournament at the right time as far as coach Coleman Houk was concerned.
Houk’s Kansas Wesleyan men’s team played its best golf of the fall season and cruised to the championship in the 14-team, two-day SCC Shootout at Salina Country Club on Tuesday.
Wesleyan finished with an 872 total, 15 strokes ahead of Sterling (887) and 21 better than Science & Arts of Oklahoma (893).
The victory is a significant step forward for the young Coyotes, who lost several of their top players from last year’s Kansas Conference championship team that competed in the NAIA National Tournament.
“It’s our first big win of the year after we started off a little rocky,” Houk said. “It’s nice to finally get one before the fall’s over and have one under our belt going into the spring.”
KWU’s Matthew Freriks (JR/Stinnett, Texas) and Trevor Watson (SO/Coffeyville, Kan.) were the top two individuals, Freriks shooting a tournament-best 69 in the third round for a 213 total (72-72-69). Watson was almost as good, posting a 214 score (70-72-72).
Ethan Vikander (SO/Aberdeen, S.D.) tied for eighth (72-72-77—221) and Landon Berquist (SO/Lawrence, Kan.) tied for 19th (76-77-75) for account for the final total. Cameron Becker (SR/Coffeyville, Kan.) tied for 31st (83-76-74—233).
Wesleyan fielded two other teams as well, one placing eighth with a 939 score and the other 10th with a 949 total. Trevor Oberg (JR/McCook, Neb.) shot 228, Steele Schweinebraten (SO/Las Cruces, N.M.) 239, Ryan Lee (SO/Sugar Land, Texas) 240, Tyler Tarvin (FR/North Richland Hills, Texas) 241 and Victor Cascio (FR/Kansas City, Mo.) 243 for the eighth-place team. Parker Norton (SO/Salina, Kan.) shot 224, Adam Vigars (FR/Princeton, Ill.) 233, Tyler Martin (SO/Phillipsburg, Kan.) 243, Kaleb Thingelstad (FR/Crookston, Minn.) 249 and Parker Simmons (FR/Emporia, Kan.) 267 comprised the 10th place team.
Houk’s pleased with the Coyotes’ improvement this fall, for the most part.
“Definitely the right direction from the first three weeks,” he said. “They’re maturing quick – not quick enough – but we’re going to get there. We’ve got two weeks left and we’re just looking to build on this. It’s great to do it on our home course against some good teams that we haven’t fared so well against so far this year.”
Playing on their home course was a big advantage, Houk said.
“More supporters out here than any other tournament we have and the guys know the course,” he said. “It’s one of the more fun tournaments to win of the year, it’s your own tournament.”
Freriks was consistent from start to finish Tuesday.
“I started off decently and I just kind of kept it smooth sailing and made a couple of birdies on the back nine,” he said. “Almost lost it there at the end but somehow I managed to make a birdie on 18 and shoot 69 today.”
Freriks credited his putting for saving the day.
“I really felt confident over the ball and I could really roll it around the greens,” he said. “Every putt I looked at I thought I could make it. It just depended on the speed, really.”
Freriks said the victory was much needed and will provide a boost going forward.
“This is a tournament we can build momentum on in the future,” he said. “We got off to a rocky start to the season but for myself and the team I think we can just take this tournament and look forward and say ‘hey, we can do this, we can play well’ and focus on the future.”
Watson’s the younger brother of Troy Watson, who won the KCAC title and earned All-America honors last spring after finishing seventh in the NAIA National Championship.
Trevor Watson said playing at SCC was a huge advantage.
“This is our home course, we know we can play well, all five of our guys know we can shoot low here,” he said. “I think it was just trusting our instincts and playing how we know we can play.
Trust is the key to improvement, according to Watson.
“Whether you’re hitting it good or bad you’ve just got to trust your swing and you can pull out a good score,” he said.
The Coyotes will play in the KCAC Match Play on October 4-5 at Mariah Hills Golf Course in Dodge City. They finish the fall season at the Memphis Shootout on October 11-12 in Memphis, Tenn.