The PACWEST 2018 golf season is upon us, and with the opening tournament of the season in the books, the Royals will be looking to improve on a slow start.
Head coach Gert Van Niekerk exhibited cautious optimism in an interview with PACWEST's Ryan "2ts" Watters. Usually stoic and reluctant to ever show his hand, Van Niekerk was quite excited when discussing one of his new recruits, Delta's Dustin Franko. Franko attended the prestigious BC Titleist Performance Camp earlier this year, where BC's best young golfers hone their skills before heading off to play for schools like UCLA. Van Niekerk is also working to add one more player to the Douglas roster, but he was not ready to join the roster in time for the opening tournament at Langara. Franko joins returning players Josh Legge, Travis LeClair and Kent McKinon, as well as new recruit Maxwell Maichin.
When asked if there was a certain hunger in the eyes of the returning players, Van Niekerk delivered an emphatic yes, mentioning LeClair in particular in this regard, but stating that all 5 players on the Royals roster were incredibly focused and determined ahead of the Langara tournament. This season, the team is working with a mental performance coach to improve these aspects of the game, which are often overlooked but have a significant impact on performance in sport. Van Niekerk also mentioned that the level of competition in the PACWEST will be high as always, as the conference is one of the toughest for golf, but he firmly believes his players are up to the task.
University of the Fraser Valley took home first place in the season-opening tournament as they collectively shot 583 over two days, while Douglas finished sixth with a 628. However, the weekend started extremely well for one Royal in particular, the rookie Dustin Franko. On the first day of the tournament, Franko was unstoppable, shooting a 69 to land at first in the individual standings, tied with Wyatt Brook of the VIU Mariners. Franko's incredible day-one performance did not carry over into the second day of the tournament, as he shot a 77 and fell to 5th in the standings. However, his two-day total of 146 was just 6 off the leader, which bodes well for an excellent season for the North Delta native, suggesting that Van Niekerk's assesment of the freshman's talent was accurate.
The rest of the Royals golf team didn't have quite as strong of a showing at the opening tournament. Josh Legge shot 81 and 78 to finish tied for 21st, while Maichin, LeClair and McKinon all had two-day totals over 160. But there's more work to do, and lots more golf to be played. While it may have been a disappointing start for four of the Royals golfers, they are still determined to have a great season and will be driven to play with purpose this weekend in Kelowna at the UBC Okanagan tournament on September 15 and 16.