Golf tees up for upcoming season

On May 11, Nebraska Wesleyan captured the Div. III National Championship in men’s golf, according to the NCAA sports Web site. Less than seven months earlier, the UW-Eau Claire men’s golf team beat Nebraska Wesleyan in the Twin Cities Classic by 20 strokes.

The Blugolds failed to qualify for the national tournament last season because of an NCAA rule requiring a team to participate in at least four contests after Jan. 1 to be eligible for the May event. The team only competed in three.

“It was just a shock,” senior Ryan Brockhaus said. “We had played our way into the national championship.”

Brockhaus and the Blugolds held a No. 5
ranking in the GCAA/Bridgestone Div. III poll at the time, but the ruling was upheld and the team stayed at home in May.

Brockhaus said this year’s team is playing with a chip on its shoulder following the events at the end of last season.

“Our ultimate goal is the National Championship. we’re hungry this year,” he said.

The team began its 2006-07 campaign Saturday and Sunday, finishing in a tie for fourth out of 19 teams in the St. John’s Invite, a result Coach Jim Maguire said was a good start to the season.

Maguire also has high goals, but knows achieving those goals will require dedication.

“The point I gotta get across to these guys is to work hard,” he said. “If they don’t work hard they aren’t gonna get where they want to be.”

Nine letter winners return to the team from last season, one of those being senior Mike Greer, who finished in third place at last weekend’s two-round tournament with a final score of 151 (+7). Junior Derek Bauer finished in a tie for fifth, finishing at 153 (+9).

The Blugolds host the Frank Wrigglesworth UWEC Invite on Sunday and Monday in Eau Claire. The tournament is named after the former Eau Claire men’s golf coach, who died in 2004 at the age of 87. Wrigglesworth is credited with turning the university’s golf program into a national powerhouse, sending the Blugolds to 10 national championship appearances.

Maguire wants to get the team back to national caliber. He said he believes the team has the talent to make it to the national tournament, and even to win the national championship if the golfers work hard enough, a feat accomplished by the ‘Golds in 2001 under former coach Todd Oehrlein.

Brackhaus also said he believes the team can repeat the 2001 team’s success.

“There’s no way we can’t play with the best teams in the nation.”