Men’s golf team places second in final regular season meet before nationals

Senior Ryan Quinn captured medalist honors and the men’s golf team placed second in the college division of the Jack Wallace/Drake Relays Memorial Tournament, which concluded at Lake Panorama National in Panorama, Iowa on Tuesday.

The Blugolds’ began the tournament fighting conditions they’ve been fighting all spring – wind and rain.

Sunny skies on Tuesday allowed the ‘Golds to have an even better second day as they improved their team score by four strokes from their first round total of 308. But the ‘Golds still couldn’t top Indian Hills Community College (Iowa), which finished with a 604 to Eau Claire’s 612.

Indian Hills lowered its score by 16 strokes to edge Eau Claire by 8 strokes after 36 holes.

“We just didn’t get it going on the first day,” senior Todd Samarzia said. “We were definitely capable of shooting as good as (Indian Hills) did.”

By the end of the first day, coach Todd Oehrlein’s Blugolds led all schools in both the college and university division. The tournament consisted of two divisions to split up schools of different sizes.

The college division was made of Div. III schools and community colleges. The university division included Div. I schools. Northern Iowa won the six-team university division championship by 20 strokes over host Drake University (Iowa).

Quinn won medalist honors as he finished 5-over par with a 149 (73-76). The win was Quinn’s third out of the four total tournaments the Blugolds have competed in this spring. Quinn bettered two Indian Hills players, Pat Stolpe and Brett Gallinger, to take the top spot. Stolpe and Gallinger both carded a 150 to tie for second.

Eau Claire’s first round score of 308 was not good enough for it to top the college division. The team led the entire tournament field, including the top Div. I leader Northern Iowa, which came in at 313. Other Blugold notables after the first day included Samarzia at fifth with a 77 and senior Ryan Kuhl at ninth with a 78.

“I wasn’t at all happy with my first round score,” Kuhl said. “I struggled with my driver, but I made up for it with my putter. My 78 could have easily been an 84 if my putter wasn’t working for me.”

Kuhl said he and the rest of the team have a week and a half to work out their final kinks before nationals.

Sophomore Andy Smith shot a first round 80 and senior Brian Thompson came in with an 87.

Samarzia said the highlight of the course came when Smith hit a hole-in-one on a Par 3 in the practice round.

Northern Iowa finished with a two-day 601 score, which was the best score of the meet. Northern Iowa won the university division by beating second-place Drake University by 20 strokes.

This was the last regular-season competition for the Blugolds who are awaiting a bid for their fourth-straight NCAA Div. III tournament appearance.

Kuhl said he and the rest of the team are confident they will be given a bid to the national tournament. They will know for sure by May 1.

Since 1993, the Blugolds have been an NCAA affiliate and have qualified for four national tournaments with a 13th in 1994 and a 12th in 1998.

The ‘Golds cracked the top 10 two years ago when they placed fifth in 1998 and fourth in the 1999 national tournament.

Quinn was last year’s national individual runner-up, losing nationals by a single stroke to become the school’s first NCAA first team All-American.