Seattle University golfers captured the 1980 West Coast Athletic Conference championship by a hefty 25 strokes, but it was sudden death for them.
On Monday, they were hailed as winners. On Wednesday, they started disbanding the team.
With SU choosing to de-emphasize its overall athletic program, initially dropping from Division I competition to Division III, the golfers gained the distinction as the school's last title team in any sport at the NCAA's highest level of play.
"We heard about it in a parking lot after playing at Pasatiempo," SU golfer Scott Williams said, referring a Santa Cruz, Calif., golf course and the downsizing. "It happened quick. We were doing good, we were playing well, and then wham: We dropped the program."
With SU now 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 11th in a series of 33 stories replaying memorable events previously held at the NCAA's top level (1952-80).
On May 6, 1980, the Chieftains took two trips around an extra-difficult Sahalee Country Club and emerged as an easy WCAC winner over San Diego, 595 to 620. SU junior Dave Wahlin won the individual league championship, shooting a resilient four-over-par 148 to take a two-shot victory over teammate Kevin Cochran and Portland's Frank Edmonds.
"Sahalee was so tough back then," Williams said. "Nothing was cleared out. If you hit a ball off line, it was in the brush. You didn't look for your ball. The other teams were like, 'What?'"
In the immediate aftermath of their Sahalee glory, SU golfers had the option of retaining their team, without scholarships, but they chose to give it up in order that everyone could transfer without penalty.
Williams, a sophomore who two weeks earlier had won the prestigious U.S. Intercollegiate by a shot at Stanford, was the best golfer amongst a talented group. He agreed to transfer to UCLA, and would have joined future PGA Tour players Corey Pavin, Steve Pate, Steve Delsing and Tom Pernice, but Williams found out he had to sit out a year by Pac-10 rules because he had played as a freshman at Washington.
Williams turned to San Diego State, where he was a two-time All-America selection. He later appeared in three PGA Championships and two U.S. Opens and spent a season playing the Nike Tour, now Nationwide.
Demonstrating how talented this final SU golf team was, five other players transferred together to the University of San Francisco, and Cochran, Scott Taylor and George Prince won WCAC championships for the Dons, giving current and former Chieftains four consecutive league titles. Wahlin, SU's 1980 WCAC medalist at Sahalee, likewise finished up at USF.
"It was a great team," Williams said of SU. "We all got along so well. It was really fun. Nobody expected a lot. We were old school. We were smart golfers. We knew how to play golf."
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