The goal for the UW-Eau Claire men’s golf team this season has remained constant the whole year — qualify for the NCAA Championship.
Monday and Tuesday, the Blugolds took another step towards nationals.
Eau Claire took second place out of 15 teams in a three-round tournament at the Bobby Krig Invitational, hosted by Gustavus Adolphus College (Minn.). Head coach Mike Greer said he was impressed with the team’s consistent play in a overly talented environment.
“We battled a very competitive field,” Greer said. “Along with that we played two challenging golf courses in really challenging weather.”
The Blugolds competed in windy conditions but kept their composure and handled the elements, Greer said. He said this composure comes from preparation and mental attitude.
In tough conditions, a golfer’s game can go south quickly, and Greer said talking to the team the night before the tournament was another reason for their success.
“The main three things we focused on were dealing with the things we can control, playing our game and having fun,” Greer said.
The Blugolds struggled with their short game over the two-day tournament and Greer said his team would have come out with a victory had their shots inside 100 yards been a little sharper.
Sophomore Eric Hagstrom shot a 223 and took third place golfing as an individual. Not being a member of the top five meant Hagstrom’s score did not count toward the team’s total, but he still caught the attention of his head coach.
“What I’ve been so impressed with is our depth,” Greer said. “It shows our young talent.”
Hagstrom said he came into the tournament with a high level of concentration and took on each hole one shot at a time. He said despite not being in the varsity lineup, he saw his opportunity to compete as a chance to prove himself.
“I did feel some pressure because I want to post low rounds to get into the top five,” Hagstrom said.
The top five, also known as the varsity lineup is a group that has constantly been changing for the Blugolds this year.
Freshman Brady Hanson was one of the golfers in the top five, tied for sixth with a 226. He said the team put up a good score, but left a lot of shots out on the course and didn’t play their best.
Like Hagstrom, Hanson has experienced success competing as an individual. In the 2013 fall season, Hanson took first place at the Twin Cities classic.
“Whenever you play that good in a big tournament it gives you a lot of confidence, and it was a good moment for Eric,” Hanson said.
But Hagstrom’s success has come at a price. Competing on consecutive days of the school week has proven to be a challenge for the Blugolds off the course, and Hagstrom said he is getting hounded with homework right now.
The Blugolds played 10 hours of golf on Monday and Hagstrom said when the action concluded, he went back to his hotel room to do a few more hours of homework despite being exhausted.
“The professors are lenient and helpful, but you really have to catch up because we still have to get the work done in the classroom,” Hagstrom said.
As the Blugolds work to catch up in the classroom they are also preparing for what Hagstrom said is their biggest tournament of the year.
This weekend Eau Claire will compete at the Saint John’s University Invitational. Greer said the strong field will include familiar faces like the University of No. 24 St.Thomas (Minn.), No. 18 St. Johns (Minn.) and Gustavus.
“We go in with the goal in mind to win tournaments,” Greer said, “but with the competitive field a top two or three finish would be considered a success as well.”