Fresh off a dominating performance in the Cougar Classic, the LMU men's golf team will head to Riverside Country Club from April 20-22 to participate in the West Coast Conference Championships (WCC). WCC analysts expect the Lions to finish in the middle of the pack, behind BYU, Saint Mary’s, Pepperdine, and the University of San Francisco. Senior Blake Meek and sophomore Riley Elmes will look to defy the predictions and lead the Lions’ to their first WCC Championship since 2005-06.
The LMU Lions golf team has had a successful season and they will look to build off that success in the coming week. Coming into the tournament, the Lions have had dominating performances against strong fields but have only put forth several complete rounds. In the recent Grand Canyon University Invitational, the Lions finished in fourth place, trailing NCAA golf heavyweights Duke and Eastern Michigan by just a few strokes. If the Lions can replicate these results and avoid large numbers on the scorecard, they will have the opportunity to succeed in the upcoming WCC Championship.
The play of Riley Elmes will be a decisive factor in the Lions’ success. If the low-scoring righty from Lake Oswego, Oregon can continue his dominant play, the Lions stand to have a good chance in improving upon last year's eighth place finish. Elmes, who began the season strong, placing second in the USF Olympic Intercollegiate, has led the Lions the entire season. At the Del Walker Intercollegiate, he helped the Lions place seventh behind an even-par performance, shooting scores of 70, 66 and 74. Elmes also led the way for the Lions in Seattle University's Redhawk Invitation at Chambers Bay, with his strong final round firmly placing the Lions in 12th place out of an 18 team field. His ability to post low numbers will help the Lions perform well in the WCC Championship.
Besides Elmes, the Lions have another advantage in the West Coast Conference Championship. The golf team recently played at the site of the championship during the Cougar Championship. At this tournament, the Lions recorded their highest team finish of the season. They placed second overall with a 14-under performance. These types of low rounds will help the Lions move past their opponents on the leaderboard. The Lions were led by senior Blake Meek. He tied for first place at 7-under-par after shooting below par each round. After recording such impressive rounds (71-68-70-209), it is safe to say that Meeks has a strong grasp on the course. He will look to use this understanding of the course this week to his advantage at the Championship. The Lions also had two other below par performances. Junior Nick Jan shot consistent scores of 70, 72 and 71. Sophomore Riley Elmes also put forth an impressive first round score of 65. He shot 73 and 76 in the final two rounds. All players will look to duplicate their efforts this weekend.
Standing in the Lions’ way is reigning champion Saint Mary’s. In the 2016 championship, the Gaels set records for the tournament’s 54-hole team score at 25-under-par. Pepperdine is also coming into the tournament with something to play for. Last year, freshman phenom Sahith Theegala, had to withdraw from the tournament due to an injury. Now a sophomore, Theegala, who played with Phil Micklelson at the Genesis Open, a PGA Tour Event at the Riviera Country Club, will look to help Pepperdine recapture the title they won in 2015. In the midst of these storylines, the Lions will approach the West Coast Conference Championship not as favorites, but with the opportunity to surprise the other contenders.