While losing two seniors and welcoming back eight freshmen from last year’s squad, the men’s golf team is hoping for a strong finish in the MIAC this fall and a possible run at the national tournament.
“I think we would like to win conference, but we have a pretty strong conference,” senior Sean Barret said. “If we don’t win conference, we should put together a lot of really good tournaments to be selected to go [to nationals].”
Last fall, the men’s team struggled to post good numbers and came up short in conference play. The team placed sixth overall, one of the worst finishes it has ever had.
After a few months to shake off the tough fall, the team came into the spring season with enthusiasm. They regrouped for a spring break trip and a week later won the 18-team Wartburg Invitational in Iowa by one stroke. It was the first time since 2000 that the team has won the team championship of a multi-team event.
“That was a great start for us and really got our confidence up for the rest of the season,” junior Grant Shafranski said. “It just gave us a glimpse for a moment that we can play with some of the highest rated teams in the country. I think it gave us that swagger that we had been missing in previous tournaments.”
The Tommies ended strong in the spring season, never dropping below sixth place after the Wartburg win, and hope they can bring that same ‘swagger’ into the fall.
The team will be joined this year by 10 incoming freshmen to round out the 16-man team. In the first outing against Bethel, the rookies showed why the Tommies are going to be a contender for the MIAC title.
Although the team fell short to Bethel, many of the golfers put up great scores. Freshman Tyler Flynn’s score of 74 put him at second overall in the tournament. Freshman Brian Parkhurst tied for third at 76 and freshman Matt Ahart and senior James Stafford tied for sixth at 77.
A few of the top returners for the Tommies are Shafranski, who was named MIAC Freshman of the Year two years ago, and senior Sean Barret, who was All-Conference last year. Though there are no chosen captains, all the returning golfers will be stepping up as team leaders.
“Myself and Sean will both be looking to be the anchors on the team,” Shafranski said. “After that, the rest of the team is really there for the taking right now. Brandon Engebos and Zach Barnum have both been playing well in practice for us, and will each get plenty of opportunities to take a top five spot.”
Solidifying the top five golfers who make up the team in competitive play is going to be key to the team’s success and in qualifying for the national tournament in the spring.
“I think that we will reach our highest potential if we can get five guys to really separate themselves from the others and create a solid five-man nucleus that we can put out there consistently every week,” Shafranski said.
For years, the top contender in the MIAC has been St. John’s, who won back-to-back national championships in 2007 and 2008. But with the loss of top Johnnie golfers, the Tommies are confident that this could be their year.
“This year we would like to compete for a conference championship … [St. John’s is] definitely not going to be as good as they have been,” senior Bill Mulvahill said. “We probably have the best shot that we’ve had for a couple years.”
With eyes on nationals and the MIAC Championship, the team is focused on making each tournament count.
“My only goal is to play each shot the best that I possibly can and let whatever happens happen,” Barret said. “The ultimate goal for us is to finally break through after a 20-some year drought and win the MIAC. I think we will definitely have a chance to do that, but for right now we just need to keep getting better everyday.”
The team’s next tournament is the Augsburg Invitational on Sept. 12 and 13.
Matt Linden can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org