Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
RYLEY, Alta. – Most die-hard golfers were huddled up next to fireplaces on Saturday as anything from snow flurries to rain to wind gusts assailed Central Alberta.
Then there were the die-hard die-hards, otherwise known as the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference players competing in the conference championship at Coal Creek Golf Resort.
And for one of that particularly hardy breed to shoot under par on a day when you couldn't feel your fingers or toes? What MacEwan's Justin Berget is doing is epic in the post-secondary golf world.
Despite the inclement weather, he has rounds of 71 and 70 in the books – a 3-under total that gives him a five-shot lead over the rest of the field heading into Sunday's final round of the ACAC Championship.
"The fact that he's gone under par on these two days when it's been so challenging is impressive to say the least," said MacEwan golf head coach Jodi Campbell of the Spruce Grove native. "I think at the end of the day, we talk about just having pure determination and resilience. At some point in time, you put the weather aside and go out there and do your thing. That's what he's doing right now."
Berget is five up on Medicine Hat College's Chase Broderson (73-73), while Griffins teammate Stephen Christenson (74-73) is six behind. Concordia's Nicolas Pittman (75-75) and UAlberta-Augustana's Michael Harrison (73-77) round out the top five, nine off the pace.
"Stephen's been playing good all year," said Campbell. "He spent last year down in the States playing, so in a way he's a rookie to our team, but there's no question he's bringing a level of tournament play with having a year down south.
"He's been playing a pretty vital role for us. He's a great player. I expect to see him throw another good round down tomorrow."
That duo has the Griffins men's team tied for top spot with MHC in the team standings at 609, both comfortably 20 shots ahead of third place UAA.
A big reason why the Griffins are in the hunt to repeat as ACAC champions was the Saturday resurgence of graduating senior Noah Lubberding, who improved on a first round 83 by shooting 75 in Round 2 to sit 12th overall.
"Noah had a great bounce-back day today," said Campbell. "He easily could have been better than 75. We needed that out of him.
"When you tally up all the performances of the team, that's why the team is doing so well is we've got guys chipping in at different times when it really matters. Here we are tied for the lead going into the final day of the ACAC Championship. The guys are all going to have to chip in again tomorrow and get the job done."
On the women's side, with top player Jordan Hoyda having to withdraw from the tournament with an injury, it left them out of the running for a team banner, but they're still playing hard to show individual improvement and help MacEwan's chances at a mixed team title.
"Really the message for them is to continually improve," said Campbell, adding their scores are still relevant in the hunt for a mixed team title. "With Steve and Bergie contributing, we want the girls to have something to play for. That gives them a goal for tomorrow that they can contribute to that mixed title."
No mixed division team standings are available, but MacEwan is in the hunt.