A season cut short

    Although the men’s golf team failed to qualify for national tournament, the Blugolds endured season of both trials and triumphs

    More stories from Nicole Bellford

    Throughout the Blugold men’s golf season, Eau Claire achieved several team and individual titles.

    Photo by SUBMITTED

    Throughout the Blugold men’s golf season, Eau Claire achieved several team and individual titles.

    One year ago, as the NCAA posted their selections for the 2016 men’s division III golf tournament, UW-Eau Claire senior Brady Hanson was one of only five players across the nation to be individually selected for competition.

    This year, however, presented no such luck.

    Junior physical education student Ryan Isaacson said he was disappointed the team missed their shot at nationals this year.

    “We were so close to getting voted in by the committee,” Isaacson said. “We are left thinking back at what we could have done differently to get there. And that only motivates us to work that much harder this summer to come back stronger in the fall.”

    After a season of ups and downs, the Blugolds put their golf gear to rest this past weekend, unable to qualify for a national bid. Reflecting on their season as a whole, Eau Claire has much to be proud of, as well as room for future improvement.

    Back in September, the Blugolds started their season off with a mediocre finish in the Augsburg Fall Invite. Despite concluding the first day in a promising fourth place, Eau Claire failed to keep their momentum going and dropped three places as a team after day two. The highest placing Blugold in the season opener was Hanson, finishing the final round in 151 (+7) and tying for 11th place.

    Regardless of their troubling start, Eau Claire left their loss behind them and came out triumphant in the Frank Wigglesworth Blugold Invite, taking both team and individual top honors. While the team finished first in a combined score of 596 (+24), four Blugolds also slid into the realm of the top ten. Issacson won the tournament, scoring at par with 143. Hanson and freshman Alex Rogan tied for fourth place in with a tally of 150 (+7), and freshman Michael Immekus earned seventh with a score of 151 (+8).

    The Blugolds continued their victorious streak the following weekend, winning the St. John’s Invitational. Eau Claire finished the weekend with a team score of 591 (+15), with Isaacson once again taking top individual honors and a tally of 143 (-1). Two more team members made top ten appearances, as Hanson tied for sixth with a 149 (+5) and Rogan secured 10th in 150 (+6).

    Eau Claire’s final competition of the fall semester brought the team down from their victory high as they were unable to secure top honors, taking 12th place out of 19 teams. Hanson took 22nd overall after the final round, shooting a 221 (+8) and earning the team’s top spot.

    In December, Head Coach Courtney Everett stepped down from her position, leaving the Blugolds to look for a new staff member for the spring competition.

    “It has been an honor to work with such talented student athletes and staff at UW-Eau Claire,” Everett said in a Blugold Athletics press release. “I value the time I’ve spent coaching and it has been a wonderful chapter in my life. But it is time to step down and I wish everyone the best of luck this spring.”

    Interim Head Coach Mike Greer took Everett’s place, preparing the team for the courses ahead.

    After a couple months without competition and new staff, the Blugolds failed to secure a first place team finish in April’s invitationals. However, the spring season provided for a handful of individual titles.

    Despite a sour sixth place in the Illinois Wesleyan Invitational a week prior, Eau Claire earned a respectable fourth place in the Augustana Invitational, with Hanson tying for second place overall in a tally of 143.

    The following week, Hanson shot his season best, leading the team to a fourth place finish overall and taking top individual honors for his first time this season. Hanson edged out the second place finisher by a single stroke, shooting a 68.

    Eau Claire concluded their season finishing fourth place in the Saint John’s Invite. Hanson and Issacson were clearly off their game, dropping from the leader board in a tie for 33rd place. Immekus was the top placing Blugold, receiving 11th place with a score of 147 after two rounds.

    Although his season closer was rocky, the NCAA still recognized Hanson’s overall accomplishments. The senior was recently named a Division III Player of the Year semifinalist, with the final results debuting May 16. Eau Claire will certainly need to search for more depth in the coming season as they lose Hanson, their top finisher. His season average was 74.6, nearly two points lower than any of his teammates.

    Isaacson said although he feels his team’s hard work was worthy of a nationals bid, the Blugolds are already looking to next season.

    “Our main goal will remain the same for next year, to earn a spot in the national tournament,” Isaacson said. “But coach says we need to keep the picture small and work hard to get better one day at a time.”

    The Blugolds will return to the course next September and are searching for a permanent head coach throughout the summer.