Vikings keep swinging at Championships

The Portland State Vikings golf squad is in the midst of the Big Sky Conference Tournament, in which PSU is looking for its seventh Big Sky Championship in 11 years.

PSU is one of 11 teams vying for the title. Since the beginning of the season the Vikings have been the favorite in the Big Sky, and they want to back that up with their performance now that the conference season is coming to a close.

The Big Sky Tournament is a three-day event. It started on Sunday, with 18 holes being played each day until it concludes today. All 54 holes will be played at Ocotillo Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz.

The Vikings are led by junior A Ram Choi, who was the 2013 Big Sky Conference player of the year. Choi’s even par 144 for the first two days has the Vikings tied for the lead headed into Tuesday. Choi has had an impressive career at PSU, especially last year when she added a trip to the NCAA Regional Tournament to her resume. The junior has continued her success this season, which included leading the Vikings to their first tournament win since 2011 at the Price’s Give ’Em Five Tournament in New Mexico. Choi shot eight under par in that tournament, which was the best individual performance in a season. That’s a record pace for Choi, who is on track to break her own PSU scoring average for a season.

Choi’s success as a young athlete has all of Vikings athletics waiting to see what’s next, including the golf program’s first-year coach Kailin Downs. Downs stepped into the program with high expectations, and so far she has lived up to them. She previously coached at Oregon State before she was hired in September of this year. Just seven months later, Downs now finds herself in the middle of the biggest tournament of the year for PSU, with six conference titles in the last 11 years behind her, and a seventh looming.

For a first-year coach, Downs adjusted quickly. In her first week as the Vikings’ head coach she led PSU to a fifth-place finish at the Rose City Collegiate Tournament, before she’d even held a practice.

Now Downs is leading PSU in Arizona. Choi hasn’t been the only athlete that’s had an impressive season under her leadership. The Vikings have a strong cast of golfers including freshman Madisen Bentley, who currently holds the lowest scoring average ever by a freshman in PSU history. Bentley is second on the Vikings in scoring average.

After Bentley and Choi, the Vikings are led by sophomore Kristin Henno and junior Kelly Miller.

Northern Arizona are the defending champions, and they’re looking to hold on to their title. The tournament will conclude today, with a champion at both team and individual levels named. The team crowned champion will represent the Big Sky at the NCAA Regional Tournament May 8–10 in Cle Elum, Wash.