Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – With the wind howling and the cold cutting right through to the bones, most of the competitors in the final round of the 2017 ACAC Golf Championship at Red Tail Landing on Sunday threw the game plan right out the window.
Survive. That's what it boiled down to.
Michael Harrison (UAlberta-Augustana) and Shaye Leidenius (Red Deer College) did the best job of this as they emerged from the inclement round victorious, crowned men's and women's individual champions.
Red Deer and MacEwan won the men's and women's team titles, respectively.
"It was a grind the whole way through this weekend," said Harrison, who won by a shot after rounds of 77 and 76. "It was my goal to win and it's very satisfying to win. I'm really ecstatic for the team. Now we get to go to Oshawa for nationals, so I'm really excited.
"I've been working on a lower ball flight," he added of his success on a day when many scores blew up. "There's a lot of holes that played into the wind today, so for me that played into my hands. I putted well today. It was just a combination of good ball striking and putting and that was the key."
MacEwan's Les Fisher had the best round of the day on Sunday, carding a 75 to go with his opening round 79 and finish as the men's runner-up. Not bad for a rookie player who wasn't even selected as one of the top five on the Griffins' team.
"I just went out and played my heart out," he said, noting he took the advice that Royal Mayfair's Mike Belbin gave at Saturday's championship banquet. "I sang a song all day. I listened to Mike from last night. I enjoyed the round. I enjoyed the company. Even though I wasn't playing for the team, I just wanted to give it my all."
MacEwan's Dakota Smith – also not among the five selected to be on the Griffins team – was third (78-78), while UAA's Braden Clarkson (77-81) and first-round leader Logan Hill of RDC (71-88) rounded out the top five.
Red Deer claimed their first men's team title in program history with a total of 642 (counting the top four of five scores each day) – seven shots better than UAA. MacEwan (655) finished third.
"It's super exciting," said head coach Scott Bergdahl. "It's a long time coming for us. We put together a really solid team. We've had solid teams before, but to bring it on both days, especially under such conditions, I'm super proud of our team.
"This is a first for us and this is our second gold medallist for ladies' individual."
That would be Leidenius, who had a share of the women's lead after an opening-round 84, but left her competitors in the dust on Sunday with an 82 that felt more like a 75 under the conditions.
"I played for par every hole," she said. "Winning this is probably one of the better feelings I've had throughout my ACAC experience."
"It's kind of hard standing over your ball thinking 'I have to hit three more clubs than I usually would.' But it's the trust part of it. I trusted every shot I hit today. That's pretty much what got me to where I was."
Concordia's Kassidy Turcotte (85-90), MacEwan's Hailey Turcotte (90-86), Medicine Hat's Nicole Schultz (89-89) and MacEwan's Elizabeth Stewart (87-92) rounded out the top five.
MacEwan claimed its sixth women's team title in the past seven years and seventh of the last nine with a total of 349 (counting the top two of three women's scores each day) – 14 shots better than Medicine Hat (363). RDC narrowly settled for third (364).
"The girls have played well all year," said Griffins coach Jodi Campbell. "I'm so happy for them that they were able to bring this trophy home.
"We had this long stretch of success and then we had a heartbreaker last year, so they were really motivated to bring it back again. To be able to pull it through on a tough day – I'm just pumped for them."