They crammed six guys into a van and made the long drive to Nevada. They subsisted on all-you-can-eat-for-$3 specials at the casinos. One time, George Jonson took the change from his meal, stuck it in a slot machine and hit a sizeable jackpot.
They were Seattle University golfers, together a budding dynasty but otherwise a bargain-hunting crew.
"I remember Eddie O'Brien, the athletic director, gave me a stack of money and said, 'I don't care what happens to it, just bring me a trophy and a bunch of receipts,' and we did," said Keith Williams, the Chieftains' top player.
On May 9, 1973 in Reno, SU won its second consecutive West Coast Athletic Conference championship, beating Nevada by two strokes played over two days at LakeRidge and Washoe golf courses, while Williams captured the individual title, topping Santa Clara's Don Dormer by three shots.
The year before in Las Vegas, the Chiefs had collected the WCAC championship at the Las Vegas Country Club and now-defunct Dunes golf course, topping Santa Clara by a pair of strokes, while Jonson took medalist honors, beating the Broncos' Bernie LeBeau by three shots.
With Seattle U returning to full Division I championship eligibility for the first time in 33 years -- when the Redhawks host Washington in a women's soccer match at Championship Field on Aug. 17 -- this is the 28th in a series of 33 stories replaying memorable SU events previously held at the NCAA's top level (1952-80).
Williams came to SU from Seattle Prep High School and became part of a resilient group that included the Jonson brothers, George and Ed, Max Norgart, Greg Segai and Jim Barnes. Among them were accountants, a pilot and a teacher. Only Williams pursued a career in the sport, later becoming a golf professional at Rainier and Glen Acres country clubs.
There were no aspiring PGA Tour players among these guys; they were just determined golfers who bought into what SU coach Bill Meyer, who worked for performance-enhancing Pacific Institute, was telling them.
"Maybe on paper we weren't the best, but Bill brought out the best in us," Williams said. "He gave us the confidence to think we could win -- why not me?"
In 1972, they won the first of their WCAC titles despite the midseason retirement of their original coach, Tom Page. Meyer was responsible. He stepped in and specifically worked on everyone's mental game, convincing each player that he could do great things. Five of the Chiefs finished in the top eight in the league championship held in Las Vegas.
A year later, Williams came up with rounds of 72 and 75 to win the WCAC. The rewards were numerous: He received a league championship trophy, gained the distinction as SU Athlete of the Year and was awarded a berth in the NCAA Championship in Stillwater, Okla. He played in the group behind Ben Crenshaw. He got to travel there in style, too.
"That was a thrill to go," Williams said, "and I got to fly."
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