Waterloo men and Toronto women look to keep championship streaks alive

Waterloo men and Toronto women look to keep championship streaks alive

The action is set to tee off at the 2017 OUA Golf Championships this weekend, and it will do so with a pair of impressive streaks on the line. The Waterloo Men's team and the University of Toronto's Women's team come in winners of the last three and five championships, respectively, and as play is set to kick off at Loch March Golf and Country Club in Ottawa, Ont. this weekend, a number of capable teams will be looking to start a similar streak of their own.

Not one, not two, not three, but four? The Waterloo Warriors Men's Golf team will be looking to add to their three year reign as OUA champions by notching a fourth consecutive gold this weekend. If they want to achieve the same success as they've had in the past, the Warriors will need a pair of second year players to lead the charge. Jordy Denomme and Isaac Maxwell each put forth strong performances this season, as the former placed second at the Waterloo Invitational, while the latter finished third at the Guelph Invitational. Behind these two, and the entire Warriors team, Waterloo will strive to be the first school to win four straight titles since Toronto accomplished the feat from 1960-63.

Playing host to the returning champions, among the many other participating schools, are the Ottawa Gee-Gees. The Gee-Gees have just one returning player – Gabriel Gingras – back from the 9th place 2016 squad, and the team will be relying on the Finance major to lead the team on home soil.  

Beyond the Warriors, the other Waterloo-based school will also be sending some standout golfers to the links. Unsurprisingly, the Laurier group will be led by the reigning OUA championship individual gold medal winner – Austin Ryan. Ryan's two stroke victory at last year's event was the best performance of his career, but he'll be looking to find even more success this time around. He'll be able to enter the year-end tournament on a high note, as well, as he captured individual silver (along with a team silver for the Golden Hawks) at the Toronto Varsity Blues Invitational. Behind Ryan, the Golden Hawks as a whole should pose a threat to the competition, and if they want to find the podium provincially, they can build off of their silver medal finish at the Golf Canada Championships in June to do so.

Joining this contingent on the course are the Varsity Blues, who'll be looking to match the incredible success that their female team has secured recently. UofT will strive to build on their fourth place finish last year, and will do so with a relatively young squad. Despite the younger nature of the group – which includes Jack Allan, Matt Puzhitsky, and Ben Basran entering their first OUA championships – the team still does boast a strong veteran presence. One such veteran, Kevin Fawcett, tied for second at the 2017 Canadian University / College Championships this past June, while teammate Davis Kuksis led the Blues at the Laurier / Waterloo and Toronto Invitationals this season.

Highlighting the Guelph Gryphons men's representatives, meanwhile, are Nick Striker and Matthew Vihant. Vihant quickly raised eyebrows in his rookie season with the Gryphons, as the Toronto-native was a key cog in several tournaments. The rookie placed second at the UOIT Ridgeback Invitational in helping Guelph to win the team competition and was able to do one better at the McMaster Invitational. Vihant was the winner at Heron Point, shooting a 72 and besting two veteran golfers on the third playoff hole. Striker, meanwhile, remains as steady as they come on the golf course in his fourth year with the team. A tournament winner from 2016 (Brock Invitational), Striker's top finish this season came at the Guelph Invitational where he finished fourth, but he will undoubtedly be looking to help lead the Gryphons to victory this weekend.

Also taking part in the banner event is the Brock Men's Golf. The Badgers team started the season on a high note, capturing top spot at the Carleton Invitational. If the team wants to achieve that same level of success in the championship, they'll need to rely on the individual gold medal winner from that same tournament – Adam Graham. Graham, to go along with his top honours at Carleton, also placed fourth at the Queen's Invitational and was just shy of the top ten at the Waterloo / Laurier Invitational. As a team, however, a 1st, 3rd, and 4th place finish should have the Badgers feeling good heading into this final weekend.

Another school that will be feeling good entering the tournament is Western, based on their recent hectic stretch of play. The Mustangs not only participated in three tournaments over a five day span, but earned first place honours in each. If that wasn't impressive enough, the Mustangs continued their winning streak in the season's final tune-up event, capturing team and individual gold (Mac Carter) at the Toronto Varsity Blues Invitational.  

Queen's has also seen consistent success on the season, starting with the Carleton Invitational as well. The Gaels were led by Jeremy Rose, whose 77 earned him individual bronze and helped the team capture a 3rd place finish. Rose also had a strong showing at the Waterloo / Laurier Invitational toward the end of the season, and combined with teammates Trevor Corner, Ian Wilson, Chris Murray, and Myles Killackey, managed Sunday's low round of the day. The Gaels will be relying on these key players to help them earn their first OUA title in 20 years.   

Leading the charge for the Laurentian Men's team will be returnee Nick Quesnel. After a silver-medal performance at last year's championships, Quesnel will be looking to do one better this time around to help the Voyageurs capture the 2017 banner. It has been a strong year for Laurentian on the course, both individually and as a whole, collected two team silver medals, two individual silver medals, and a trio of T3 finishes individually as well. Needless to say, the Voyageurs will look to achieve similar successes at the championship level to close out the season.

For UOIT to find success at the championship, they'll be relying on OUA veteran MacKenzie Dasti. Dasti has earned a pair of top-ten finishes in the season's final tournament in 2015 and 2016, while also earning OUA All-Star honours for his efforts. And coming off of his best results of the 2017 season this past weekend at the Toronto Varsity Blues Invitational – finishing 4th – the Oshawa native will look to do even more to cap off another successful campaign.

Ryerson, meanwhile, will be sending a lone golfer to compete for the Rams this weekend. The Toronto-based school will be represented on the course by Andrew Hudencial, who'll be making his second straight appearance at the season's biggest tournament after qualifying with a score of 79 at the Guelph Invitational.  

Joining the aforementioned schools will also be: Carleton, McMaster, Trent, Windsor, and York.

Turning to the women's side, the crème of the crop continues to be the Varsity Blues, who as mentioned, will be looking to secure their sixth straight banner in the event. The Blues won the 2016 title by a dominant 23-strokes and became the only team to win five total banners since women's golf inception into the OUA in 2005. The team is undefeated heading into this weekend, including wins at the Allegheny Invitational, the Waterloo Invitational, and the Toronto Invitational this past weekend.
The Blues roster is led by eight-time OUA all-star Laura Upenieks. Upenieks won the individual gold medal at the Waterloo Invitational, while placing second at the Allegheny and Toronto Invitational. Fourth-year standout Ana Peric, meanwhile, enters as the reigning OUA individual champion. The three-time OUA all-star has had another stellar season, placing third at the Allegheny Invitational and fourth at the Toronto Invitational this season. Joining the pair will also be third-year veteran Kelsey Fuchs and rookie standout Ellice Hong. Fuchs earned OUA all-star honours after placing seventh at last year's championship, while Hong is coming off her first university win after claiming the individual gold at the Toronto Invitational.

Yet another team that has found consistent success this season is the Queen's Gaels. It was a successful season all around for the Queen's women, who cracked the podium at each of the tournaments they took part in this year. Among the highlights were a team gold at the Carleton Invitational, thanks in large part to individual gold winner Melissa Ramnauth. Ramnauth, along with 2016 1st-Team All-Star Robyn Campbell – silver medal winner at Waterloo Invitational – will be important parts of the Queen's Women's Golf squad this weekend, as the team looks to keep their podium streak alive on the biggest stage of the season.

Similar to the men's team, the Brock women's golfers also started their season on a high thanks to a third place finish at both the Carleton and Queen's Invitationals. Highlighted in these opening tournaments was also a pair of 2nd place finishes from Shannon Rowan. If the Brock team wants to see similar podium finishes this weekend, Rowan will need to continue to impress on the links and build on those silver-medal winning rounds of 80 and 81, respectively.

Looking to make a golden appearance for the first time since 2012, the Waterloo Warriors will be led by Laura Wesselius, who won gold at the Western Invitational and silver at the Queen's Invitational, and Elanna Lachaine-DeMarchi, who earned bronze at the Waterloo Invitational, Guelph Invitational, and most recently, the Toronto Invitational.

Joining the field of play will also be the Guelph Gryphons, who will see the likes of Erin Coates and Linnea Knutsson take the course. Coates, a rookie, won the UOIT Invitational in just her second OUA tournament ever, before placing second at the Guelph Invitational on her home course. Knutsson, meanwhile, who joins the team as an exchange student from Sweden, placed third in her first OUA event and second at that same UOIT tournament, even having to play with borrowed clubs (from Coach Tim Connor's son) until her own set could be shipped from overseas.

Another strong player in the impressive women's field is the Windsor Lancers, who found themselves on plenty of podiums this season. Starting with their first tournament of the year, Windsor placed second at the Western Invitational, before following that up with gold-medal wins at the McMaster Invitational and Guelph Invitational, and third place finish at the Toronto Varsity Blues Invitational. Playing an integral role in this overwhelming team success is Melanie Burgess, who earned multiple podium finishes of her own during the season. 

Finally, the host Gee-Gees, in similar fashion to their men's team, will feature some fresh faces on the links. Ottawa, who finished 8th overall in the 2016 OUA standings, will look to Jessica Sterbenk, Mélanie Carrière, and Lauren Middlemiss to go above and beyond last year's finish, and it could very well be Middlemiss, who finished 22nd last season, that helps lead them over the top.

Rounding out the women's field for this weekend's championship will be Carleton, Laurentian, Laurier, McMaster, Ottawa, UOIT, and Western.

To learn more about the event, check out the 2017 Golf Championship Fan Guide.