Men’s golf already winning in 2010

Story by Ashley Hofer

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In the opening weekend of its spring season, the UW-Eau Claire men’s golf team got off to a winning start. The Blugolds were victorious right away, finishing first in Thursday’s Stout Invitational. The men also tied for sixth at the Bobby Krig Invitational hosted by Gustavus Adolphus (Minn.) on Sunday and Monday.

“We played really well at Stout,” coach Jim Maguire said. “The guys were excited about that. We were a little disappointed with the way we played at Gustavus. Maybe our expectations were a little high after Stout. All in all, we’re OK.”

At Stout, Eau Claire built a 10-stroke lead on the competition to finish in first of eight teams. With a total of 285 strokes, the Blugolds finished just one stroke above par for the course. Stout’s B team finished second with 295 strokes, while Stout’s first team took third place with 304 strokes.

Eau Claire’s second team also competed at the invitational, accumulating 320 strokes to finish seventh.

“We feel really happy about the start at Stout,” junior Ryan Grip said, adding the round was one of the lowest totals for the team this year. Grip also said the day provided some challenge in the windy weather. “It was definitely our best round, given those conditions.”

Individually, Grip won first-place honors by finishing with a final total of 69 strokes, or two under par. Three other Blugolds – freshman Tim McCormick, junior Loren Churness and senior Ben Ziemann – also posted stroke counts low enough to place them within the top five golfers.

Grip said that claiming the individual victory is a feat that feels really special because of the tough competition.

“The ultimate goal whenever you play in a tournament is to win,” he said. “It’s definitely not easy because there are a lot of great players.”

A couple of days after the Stout victory, the Blugolds traveled to Minnesota to battle 12 other teams Sunday and Monday at the Bobby Krig Invitational. When the first day of competition was in the books, the ‘Golds sat tied for sixth in the standings.

After two rounds on Monday, Eau Claire remained in a tie for the sixth spot, having accumulated 915 strokes, 51 above par. St. John’s first team won the event with 871 strokes, while the Gustavus Adolphus Gold team tallied 885 strokes to earn second place.

Individually, McCormick led the Blugolds with 219 strokes, landing in sixth place. This total was just five strokes higher than the leader’s count. Churness tied for 15th with 225 strokes.

“We definitely wanted to do a little better,” Grip said. “But it’s early in the season, and we’re not too upset.”

Maguire said the invitational was a different story than what happened at Stout.

“We weren’t as confident,” he said, adding that the performances of McCormick and Churness were a few bright spots of the days.

Next weekend, the Blugolds will again hit the links in Minnesota, this time for the St. John’s Spring Invitational on Saturday and Sunday. The following Friday, the team will play in the Edgewood College Invitational. Maguire said the Edgewood event is especially important, as the team will have the opportunity to beat rival Stout again, which could have implications for making the NCAA Division III tournament.

It will be critical for the team to perform well in both events, Maguire said.

“It’s important to the program,” he said. “If we play well and beat Stout, we have a good chance of making it to the national tournament.”

Grip said the team wouldn’t need to make any special preparations for the events in practice.

“It’s still early,” Grip said, adding that the players will need to clear their minds from last week’s competition to focus on the upcoming events. “We’re still getting used to getting into the competitive flow of things.”

Maguire said the men have all the tools they need to be competitive.

“Physically, we’re fine,” Maguire said. “It’s a matter of confidence and feeling like competitors. They have the skills; they just have to believe in themselves.”

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