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Idaho's Joe Sykes crowned Big Sky champion in men's golf

Apr. 26—LITCHFIELD PARK, Ariz. — Idaho sophomore Joe Sykes became the third men's golfer in program history to win an individual conference title on Thursday at the Big Sky championship at Wigwam Golf Club with a score of 6-under 209.

"It is nice to see everything come together right now and put up one of my better performances at the end of the season when it matters most," Sykes said in a news release.

The Littlehampton, England, native joins Jared Du Toit (2015) and Dale Faylor (1952) as the only Vandals to be crowned conference champions.

Idaho finished third as a team with a score of 2-over 866.

Sykes entered Thursday's final round tied with Weber State's Brendan Thomas for first place at 5-under 139. He finished 2-under for the day, while Thomas notched a score of 10-over 80 to place tied for ninth.

The sophomore was consistent throughout the tournament. He finished 3-under 69 in the first round, followed by back-to-back rounds of 2-under 70. Sykes recorded 14 birdies and just seven bogeys in three rounds.

"Last semester was a big learning curve; I just wasn't quite on it mentally and came back this semester with a different attitude and trusted in the process a bit more," Sykes said. "It feels really rewarding to see the hard work pay off."

Sykes' individual win is his second tournament victory in as many weeks after earning individual co-medalist honors at the Battle for Idaho in Boise on April 17 with a score of 6-over 219.

The reigning Big Sky freshman of the year had some struggles this fall but has steadily improved since returning from winter break.

"I'm very proud of Joe Sykes," Idaho coach David Nuhn said in a news release. "He played great all week long, stayed patient, hit some great shots and made a few great putts. He absolutely earned this victory and has been working extremely hard through the winter and all spring to be ready for this win. I think the last few weeks have been really productive for him. ... He played great, and we are proud of him for bringing home a conference championship to Moscow."

Sophomore Sam Johnson tied for fifth, earning all-tournament team honors with a score of 1-under 215.

Senior Johannes Hounsgaard was 3-over for the tournament, good enough for a ninth-place finish. T.J. Patterson finished 15th overall and was 7-over for the tournament.

"On the team side, I know these guys are feeling gutted about the end result," Nuhn said. "Tip your cap to Sac State. They played some solid golf all week long and earned that win. I think we just didn't quite have the answers down the stretch when we turned back into the wind. The last four holes at Wigwam Gold really force a player to hit great shots and hole putts to succeed. Overall, I'm nothing but proud of this entire team."

With the win, Sykes earned a spot in the 2024 NCAA men's golf regional from May 13-15 at a site yet to be determined.

Sykes will wait until May 1 to learn where he will play in the NCAA regional. The show will take place at 10 a.m. on the Golf Channel. Regionals will take place at six different sites across the country.

"I am super excited to play against a great field and at what I am sure will be a tough venue," Sykes said. "I am in form right now, and I know there will be some top players there. It is an exciting opportunity."

Team scores — 1. Sacramento State 862; 2. Weber State 865; 3. Idaho 866; 4. Northern Colorado 876.

Individual leaders — 1. Joe Sykes, Idaho, 209; T2. Gabriel Smith, Sacramento State, 212; T2. Isaac Buerger, Weber State, 212.

Other Idaho individuals — T5. Samuel Johnson, 215; T9. Johannes Hounsgaard, 219; 15. TJ Patterson 223.