Elated Huskies Win Team Title, Manke Wins Individual Crown At Fighting Irish Classic
SOUTH BEND, Ind. – The Husky men's golf team won the team title and senior RJ Manke broke through with the individual championship at the Fighting Irish Classic in South Bend, Ind., on Tuesday.
It marked a seminal moment in the fall for the Huskies as they won both the team and individual crowns in an event for the first time in almost two years. They last did so at the Georgetown Intercollegiate on Oct. 15, 2019 when Noah Woolsey and Henry Lee shared the individual title, and the team beat the rest of the field.
The victories at Warren Golf Course on the campus of Notre Dame allowed the Huskies and Manke to exorcise demons of sorts. The team led the Husky Invitational two weeks ago by 12 shots heading into the final round but had to settle for a tie at the top with Nevada. Manke has led the past two tournaments heading into the final round but had to settle for second each time previously.
On Tuesday, everyone wearing Purple and Gold got to celebrate alone on the podium.
— Washington Men's Golf (@UW_MGolf) October 6, 2021
"They all deserve this feeling," Coach Alan Murray said of his team's elation. "I am so proud of them.
"We are delighted with the win. It was a total team effort. And I'm so pleased for RJ."
The Huskies entered the final round at the 7,023-yard, par-70 golf course with a seven-stroke advantage over Notre Dame and had to hold off the hard-charging Irish and Utah Utes for the win. Notre Dame shot 6-under 274 and Utah 5-under 275 to put on pressure, but the Huskies squeezed out a 2-under 278 to finish -15 overall (269-278-278-825) and win the tourney by three shots.
Teddy Lin converted his first birdie of the day on No. 16 to gain the Dawgs a stroke, and Manke and Woolsey both birdied No. 15 and No. 17 to keep the Huskies' ship straight down the homestretch.
"Notre Dame and Utah played well," Murray said, "but we finished the last few holes well."
Manke, who shot 12-under 198 (67-67-64) to win his third collegiate title – his first since the 2019 WCC Championship, was engaged in a battle of his own as he was paired with tournament runner-up, Javier Barcos of Utah.
Manke navigated the front nine with a 4-under 31, while Barcos was 1-under during the same stretch to give the Husky transfer from Pepperdine some breathing room. A quick glance at the leaderboard as he made the turn also helped Manke relax a little bit.
"Once I got through No. 9, I looked at the leaderboard and saw that Washington was up there on top," Manke said. "It kind of settled me down knowing that the other guys were having solid days."
On the back nine, Barcos turned up the heat on Manke to draw even on the leaderboard, but the Husky had an answer each time to minimize the damage.
On No. 13, Manke was short of the green and Barcos was long at the par-4 hole. Barcos chipped in for birdie, forcing Manke to get up-and-down to keep from a two-stroke swing.
A hole later, Barcos drained a 15-foot birdie putt and Manke answered with a 7-foot par save to remain tied.
Manke would birdie 15 to take a one-shot lead and would never give it up from there. Both guys recorded fours on the par-5, 17th hole and both made par on 18 to give Manke the win. The win helped Manke equal a mark established by CT Pan in the fall of 2012, when the current PGA pro recorded four-straight top-five finishes, which were also a first, two seconds and a third.
"My only goal was to be bogey free today," Manke said, which he accomplished with a 6-under 64. "I figured if I put up a good number and did not make any bogeys, enough birdies were going to come where it's going to be tough to beat me."
Turns out Manke was right. And this time he got to celebrate a win instead of wondering, 'What if?'
"That's the thing with golf, the more experience you build up, the more comfortable you are going to be in the next situation," he said. "You can't force anything in this game. You've just got to have fun and try on each shot. The results will come in the end."
Menke was the only Husky to score in the red on Tuesday, but he got plenty of help from his teammates to capture the all-important team title.
Woolsey entered the final round tied with Manke for the individual lead. He had a slow start out of the gates and could never quite catch up, but he did rally for an even-par 70 in the final round. He finished -6 overall (66-68-70-204) and tied for fourth. It was his first top-10 of the season, the ninth of his UW career.
Petr Hruby finished the tournament tied for 15th, finishing even-par overall with a 210. He shot a final round 2-over 72.
Lin matched Hruby's 72 and tied for 41st at +7 (217).
Taehoon Song shot a final round 76 and tied for 44th at +8 (218).
The Huskies' final tournament of the 2021 will be Oct. 11-12 at the Oregon State Invitational.