Walla Walla Community College men held off charging North Idaho to win the Fall Fury Golf Invitational at Wine Valley Golf Club on Monday.
The Warriors watched their nine-stroke lead disappear until it stood even oppoosite North Idaho with only three holes left to play, but the Warriors bounced back to finish strong to win the 36-hole tournament by four strokes.
WWCC’s Lars Malinen lost his lead atop the individual leaderboard in a rough second round featuring 15-mile-per-hour wind gusts, but he rallied to win medalist honors in a playoff victory over teammate Joe Reed, who settled for second place, and North Idaho’s Sean Langham.
All three had completed the tournament with 143 strokes.
Meanwhile, WWCC’s Tucker Keys shot a 146, good enough for a sixth-place tie with Walla Walla University’s Chase Yoshida and Bellevue’s Isaac Hall, and then WWCC’s Dillon George ended up two strokes back in 11th place to help the Warriors finish the Fall portion of their season with a victory.
“These guys showed tremendous heart today,” WWCC coach Michael Rostollan said. “Each knows where they stand all the time with BirdieFire’s live scoring. They could see their big lead disappear. And they chose to dig in and win it back.
“Having those four guys in the top 11 is a great message to send out across the league and is a big win for us at home,” he said. “It will surely make for a warmer winter.”
The Warriors ended up completing the 12-team tournament in 580 strokes, four ahead of second-place North Idaho.
A bottle-neck jam followed, with Lewis-Clark State placing third at 603 followed by Skagit Valley (604), Bellevue (606), Spokane (607) and Southwestern Oregon (608).
Walla Walla University was next in eighth place with a 638.
Malinen rebounded from early difficulties. He struggled early in Monday’s competition with a 5-over par on the front nine. His troubles included a double-bogey on Hole 1 and a triple Hole 9 with a lost ball.
He had entered the second round leading the tournament after shooting a 6-under 66 on Sunday, but his slump erased the lead.
Nevertheless, Malinen came back to par the back nine as Langham shot 1-over. The WWCC sophomore birdied the 18th hole to force a playoff.
“I can’t believe how nervous I was over that putt (4 feet),” Malinen said. “I was just shaking.”
Meanwhile, Reed also rallied with a two-under on the back nine to join them in a three-way tie. His card featured a birdie on the 14th hole, followed by an eagle on the 15th.
The first hole of sudden death action quickly eliminated Langham, who bogied while Malinen and Reed parred. The WWCC duel continued through four more holes. Malinen finally edged Reed to win the longest playoff in school history, according to Rostollan.
For Walla Walla University, Yoshida finished the tournament with a team-best 146. Aubrey Fautheree added a 163, with teammates Jon Lehman and Cole Henderson both two strokes back.
In the women’s tournament, WWCC’s Lauren Victorino finished with 181 strokes, teammate Marisa Jimenez was eight back and Korbie Jenks turned in a 201.
Walla Walla University’s Lindsey Shearer shot a 198, Kaitlyn Whitley followed at 223, and Kaylene Lopez tallied a 281.