Abbotsford – The University of the Fraser Valley men’s and women’s golf teams embark on their fall season this weekend, as they host the first PacWest conference tournament.
The UFV Invitational runs Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 10-11, at Ledgeview Golf Club in Abbotsford, marking the start of a high-intensity schedule. The conference team and individual championships are decided by cumulative scores over four tourneys.
Both Cascades teams are looking to return to the top step of the PacWest podium after finishing as runners-up last season. The men’s squad saw its streak of three straight conference titles snapped by the Camosun Chargers, while the women’s run of two consecutive gold medals was ended by the UBC Okanagan Heat.
But Cascades head coach Chris Bertram, heading into his 12th year at the helm of the program, believes he’s got the personnel to make a run at double-gold in 2016.
“I’m really excited about the group we have for the upcoming year,” he said. “We’ve several players who are proven winners of collegiate events, and beyond that, we have some talented young players who are looking to solidify their spot in our roster.
“For several years now, we’ve set our goals quite high – we want to win our conference, and we want to win nationals. Looking at our team and what I see as the competition across the country, I see no reason we shouldn’t be in a position to challenge for national titles.”
The Cascades men’s team, in addition to its PacWest silver medal, won bronze at the PING CCAA national championships last fall as tournament hosts, and they’re led once again by fifth-year standout Connor O’Dell. The Maple Ridge product is a two-time CCAA All-Canadian, and won the PacWest individual silver medal and finished sixth individually at nationals in 2015.
Joining O’Dell in the Cascades’ veteran core are third-years Zach Olson and Kaleb Fisher, and sophomore Nathan Bahnman. Olson and Fisher both picked up tournament wins in 2016-17, while Bahnman established himself as a consistent presence on the squad as a rookie.
Additions to the roster include Halen Davis, Cole Briggs and Nicholas Guenther. Guenther and Briggs aren’t exactly newcomers – Guenther was part of the Cascades’ CCAA national championship in 2013-14 and is returning to the squad, while Briggs redshirted last season and will be an active participant this year. Davis, meanwhile, comes with an impressive pedigree – he’s transferring from Skagit Valley College in Washington state, where he won the Northwest Athletic Conference (NWAC) men’s player of the year award last season.
The Cascades’ women’s team returns intact, led by reigning PacWest individual champ and CCAA All-Canadian Hannah Dirksen of Mission, B.C. She’s joined by fast-improving sophomores Jennifer Kell and Ciara Melhus.
Bertram is welcoming a fourth member to the team in Sharon Park, a recent graduate of Fleetwood Park Secondary in Surrey, B.C. Park is a highly accomplished junior golfer who figures to make an immediate impact with the Cascades.
UFV Invitational tee times begin at 1 p.m. on Saturday and 8:30 a.m. on Sunday, and Bertram said the Cascades will benefit from hosting the first PacWest event.
“Our fall season is a bit of a sprint, in that we play four cumulative events for the conference title,” he noted. “So getting off to a good start is critical, and in years past, we’ve tried hard to prepare for that first event, which has been on the road. So to have it at home this year, at a golf course like Ledgeview, gives us a strong advantage.”