Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
RYLEY, Alta. – Justin Berget wrapped up one of the most impressive individual performances in the history of the MacEwan Griffins golf program on Sunday – a dominant nine-shot win in freezing weather to claim the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference men's individual championship.
In snow, rain, wind and temperatures that cut to the bone at Coal Creek Golf Resort, the Spruce Grove native remarkably finished at 2-under for the three-day championship (71-70-73) at Coal Creek Golf Resort, nine ahead of 2018 champ and runner-up Michael Harrison of UAlberta-Augustana (73-77-73).
"I'm just happy to see some hard work pay off," said Berget, who is in his third year with the Griffins. "I was going through a bit of a rough patch coming out of high school the first year (at MacEwan). My game wasn't really as sharp as it could be, so to get the job done like that really showed me I can play and what it takes to get there."
For his efforts, Berget received a gold medal, a plaque as ACAC male golfer of the year, and he will be named a Canadian Colleges Athletic Association All-Canadian at nationals in Montreal next month. The best part is his teammates will be with him as the Griffins qualified for the championship by finishing second in the men's team standings to Medicine Hat.
"That's the most important part," said Berget. "I think all of the guys were pretty happy to be able to have a trip to Montreal for a week. That's the fun part is making sure the boys get to go."
The Griffins finished with a team score of 927, 12 back of banner-winning Medicine Hat College, but enough to qualify for nationals ahead of strong UAA (942) and SAIT (954) teams.
"We just kept on working and kept on sticking with the process," said Campbell, whose squad was fourth at the ACAC North Regional and third at the South Regional before climbing to second. "Would the guys have rather brought a banner home? Absolutely. And they were sure gunning for it. But in many ways, there's a huge accomplishment being able to qualify for nationals and they got the job done today."
Rookie Stephen Christenson tied for fifth (74-73-82) and fifth-year Noah Lubberding was 12th (83-75-80), while rookie Blake Caron (T18th - 80-83-85), rookie Nate Gerhardt (T18th – 84-83-81), rookie Jose Lopez-Peterson (21st – 85-80-85) and second-year Jarrett Bossert (T30th – 83-97-83) rounded out the Griffins results.
Considering almost everyone in the field shot significantly higher scores than they're accustomed to because of the weather conditions, it just underlies how great Berget's performance was.
"It was a dominant performance, no question," said Campbell, who called the weather conditions the most challenging the team has faced in the history of MacEwan golf. "We're absolutely thrilled with how he played and the end result. He was carrying this team. The fact he could come through on the individual side like that and be rewarded was huge."
On Sunday, Justin Berget maintained the same game plan that led him to a five-shot lead through the first two rounds of the ACAC Championship and stretched it to nine (Brody Mark photo, Courtesy SAIT Athletics).
Berget wasn't fazed by weather which caused the scores of many top players to balloon. It all started with his mindset.
"I just had to understand that the weather was bad and just prepare with all my gear," he said. "I just went to battle and didn't really worry about it. I tried not to focus too much on score because I knew the conditions were pretty bad, so it was more of a process than other days."
That's what he stuck to mentally, as well, when he entered Sunday's round defending a five-shot lead.
"I've never been in that spot before," said Berget. "I tried to just stick to the same game plan. I've heard a lot of the times when you have a lead, people tend to be a little bit passive and bad things start to happen. I just tried to tell myself the reason why I was successful was the game plan I had, so just stick to the exact same plan and don't lay off, and it worked."
Medicine Hat also won the mixed team title, while Concordia claimed the women's banner on the strength of Kassidy Turcotte's women's individual championship (84-78-78).
MacEwan's top female competitor was Sky Thompson (8th – 97-91-99), while rookies Terynn Jensen (12th – 107-106-92) and Taylor Eskdale (14th – 108-110-110) rounded out the results. MacEwan's top player Jordan Hoyda withdrew before the tournament started with an injury.
"On the women's side, it was really about getting some growth and development on the team," said Campbell. "Going through these experiences was huge for some young women getting their feet wet on this team."
As for the men, they're now getting ready for the CCAA national championship Oct. 15-18 at Montreal's Club de Golf Continental.
"We're just absolutely thrilled for the guys to outplay a couple really good teams from SAIT and Augustana," said Campbell of their battle to earn a berth. "The guys out-dueled them this week and earned a trip to nationals. They have a lot to be proud of."