Griffins Justin Berget captures silver at CCAA Nationals

Griffins Justin Berget captures silver at CCAA Nationals

The fall of 2019 is one that Justin Berget will soon not forget.

It started when the MacEwan University Griffins student/athlete ended September with an Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) men's individual golf gold.

His team also captured silver in the ACAC men's golf team event held at Coal Creek Golf Resort.

This past Friday, he made history for the Edmonton-based school as he became the first Griffins golfer to capture at an individual medal at a Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Golf National Championship presented by PING.

The medal was silver in colour. 

Named 2019 ACAC Male Golfer of the Year only a few weeks prior, Berget finished 217 (73-74-70), only one stroke behind champion Louis-Alexandre Jobin-Colgan of the Champlain St. Lawrence Lions who had a card reading 71-75-70.

Stealing a common sports catchphrase... It came down to the wire at the Continental Golf Club in Sorel-Tracy, Quebec.

"The finish was amazing," recalls Griffins gold coach Jodi Campbell." We knew with four holes to go that he was two shots back. He made a bogie on 16 (Par 4, 358 Yards) and then birdied the next hole (par 3, 146 Yards). We knew we had to make an eagle on the last hole (par 5, 515 Yards).

"We said, "Let's go for it." He bombed the drive and then had a great approach shot to the fringe. He had the opportunity to chip it in for the eagle and had a solid look at making the eagle but came up short by two feet or so. The chip would have been exciting as it would have forced a playoff."

In an interview with Jefferson Hagen of MacEwan Athletics, Berget recalls the final holes. 

"My 18th hole, but hole 9 (after starting on 10), I thought I was one back. I think I found out in the middle of the fairway that I was two back. The leader birdied his last hole.

"It (eagle attempt) came up just short. I didn't really give it a good run. I was mad."

Campbell is not surprised at the play of Berget, who finished 14th at last year's CCAA golf championships, which were held at the Desert Blume Golf Course and hosted by the Medicine Hat College Rattlers.

"The one thing we knew all week was how mentally tough Justin had been throughout the season. There are moments when he can hit some amazing shots, and he was able to hit these hosts when the pressure was on."

Hosted by Cégep André-Laurendeau the 6750-yard course, built-in 1992, saw Thursday's play cancelled due to rain and high winds.

Also competing in individual men's play for the ACAC was the University of Alberta Augustana Vikings' Michael Harrison and Dakota Smith of the SAIT Trojans.

Shooting a 224 (76-72-76), Harrison tied for ninth with five other players in the 59-competitor field.

"Michael went there with aspirations of winning or being in the top five," says Vikings coach Bill Penny of the fifth-year student-athlete who claimed the sixth spot last year at the CCAA finals. "After seeing the course, we knew that even par would win and sure enough it did.

"Michael struggled and did not have his A-game. He went to five CCAA championships and was a CCAA All Canadian in four. We have become really close. I have seen him develop not only his golfing skills but as a person. I am very proud of him, and he is an exceptional young man, and we will no doubt keep in touch."

Smith tied for 50th behind a 247 (86-82-80)

"He didn't play how he was hoping to, and he would be the first to tell you,' said Trojans coach Stephen Yanitski. "It was a good experience to come out, and we will be taking that knowledge towards next year."

Of the course, described as four levels of difficulty, narrow fairways, strategically located hazards, a double green and raised tee-offs, this is a visually elegant course. All of the holes have been designed to allow players to take risks. However, the narrow and winding layouts often force golfers to sacrifice distance for precision," Yanitski replied.

"It was a challenging course in that it was something that we have not seen in a tournament play here in Alberta. It was very scenic and an interesting golf course, but nothing like we have seen in the ACAC."

In an 11-team field, the MacEwan Griffins were 7th (935 strokes) and Medicine Hat Rattlers in the cellar at (962).

"We did have one day where we slipped back," said Campbell. "We were ranked ninth going in and finished seventh, but we were capable of getting into the top five. The guys should be proud. We were the top team from Alberta and Western Canada."

For Rattlers' head coach Dillon Bastel the placement was "a little disappointing."

He continued: "It was tough going in not being able to practice the week before due to the weather in Medicine Hat. In golf, you can't take a week off and then expect to come into a tournament and play at your best. But still, it is not an excuse. The course was tough, and one of our weaknesses was keeping the ball in play. We had five guys who all had one of their toughest weeks of the year." 

Champlain St. Lawrence Lions (RSEQ), with host Boomerang d/Andre-Laurendeau (RSEQ)) and Humber Hawks, were gold, silver and bronze medalists in both men's and women's team play.

CCAA Women's Competition

The ACAC went into this past weekend's 2019. Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Golf National Championships Presented by PING as women's defending champions. The only problem was that the team that had won in 2018, Red Deer Queens, was not in attendance. Their women's and men's programs had been dropped before the season due to financial reasons.

Held since 2000, it was the first ACAC women's team gold at the CCAA finals.

In the Queen's place were three more-than-capable teams with the Concordia University of Alberta Thunder, Medicine Hat College Rattlers and SAIT Trojans.

The Thunder was ranked No. 1 in the CCAA final polls (October 8, 2019), Rattlers No. 6 and Trojans No. 8.

Unfortunately, those numbers did not transfer over to the greens as the Thunder finished fifth (500 stroke total) with the Rattlers (515) and Trojans (540) seventh and eighth respectively in the eight-team field.

In women's individual play the Thunder sister duo of Kassidy and Kennedy Turcotte were the top ACAC finishers.

Kassidy, the 2019 ACAC Female Golfer of the Year, was out to improve on her last year's 14th place finish when she shot a 344 at the Desert Blume Golf Course.

This year she moved up three spots to No. 10 with 248 (87-84-77) while Kennedy at 252 (85-85-82) was not far behind at 13th in the 22- player field.

"We were definitely a top-two team, but with injuries, they couldn't practice, and we did not place," said Thunder coach Larry Petryk. "Kassidy had a wrist injury, but on the last day she got off to a great start and then she had two bad holes on the back nine.

"Kennedy was ailing with her back pretty badly, and she did not have a good week. The course put a premium on driving accuracy, and that is one of the strengths of our girls."

For the Rattlers, the top finisher was Nicole Schultz tied for 14th at 253 (88-81-84).

 "They held their own," said Rattlers coach Dillon Bastel. "I was proud of how they played, and they fought hard in what is their last hurrah for all three (Schultz, Sierra Zukowski, Ciara Bonogofski). It was unfortunate that Day 3 was cancelled as we had made some decent progression."

Of the fact that both the men's and women's Rattlers teams qualified for the CCAA finals, Bastel said: "That was our obvious goal as the start of the go to Montreal together as it had never been done before at our school. It is something to hang our hat on definitely. 

Ciara Bonogofski of the Medicine Hat Rattlers earned the CCAA Exemplary Leadership Awards based on their conduct during the championship.

SAIT Trojan's top scorer was Carey McLean at 19th with 269 (94-87-88). 

"Our goal entering the season was just to be a presence at the ACAC and CCAA tournaments, and we achieved that," said head coach Stephen Yanitski. "Next time, we will be higher on the scoreboard. Individually there were some positives that we can take away."

Women's champion was Élizabeth Labbé Champlain St. Lawrence Lions 213 (72-72-69).