EAGLE, Neb. – GPAC men’s golf got a whole lot better in 2017-18. The four-round conference championship score carded by the Concordia University men’s golf team this academic year would have been good enough to win the conference by 25 strokes in 2016-17. By the time the final round of this spring’s GPAC tournament concluded at Woodland Hills Golf Course in Eagle, Neb., on Tuesday (April 24), the Bulldogs found themselves in fifth place.
Head coach Brett Muller’s program moved up two spots from a seventh-place finish in 2016-17 behind an experienced lineup. Concordia finished the 2017-18 conference championships with a score of 288-295-311-308–1,202. The Bulldogs just held off Dordt (1,203) and Hastings (1,203) for a top half of the GPAC placement.
Muller had hoped his team could make a push for a higher placement after entering the spring in fourth place. Said Muller, “Overall it’s a little disappointing. We came into the week 14 shots out of first. We wre definitely in a position where if we played well these last two days we could have moved up.”
Individually, junior Nolan Zikas placed 16th after carding a four-round total of 70-73-76-80–299. Not even one golfer scored lower than a 300 during the 2016-17 GPAC men’s championships. Zikas had entered Tuesday’s round tied for seventh on the conference leaderboard but wound up falling out of the top 10 after shooting his highest 18-hole score of the season in GPAC competition. The La Vista, Neb., native still could wind up being named to the all-conference team for the third time in his career.
Freshman Kort Steele performed the best among Bulldogs during this week’s action (76-76). Steele climbed to 19th in the final standings with a 72-hole score of 79-71-76-76–302. Following Steele on the leaderboard, Russell Otten (77-70-80-79–306) tied for 25th, Tyler Ehresman (70-82-79-76–307) shared 28th and Tylar Samek (71-81-84-77–313) tied for 32nd.
Concordia was one of four GPAC teams to use the same five golfers for each of the four conference championship rounds.
“Those guys separated themselves on our team,” Muller said. “They knew they would be the guys playing at the GPAC championships. I want to credit Russell and Tyler as they finish their careers as Bulldogs. Russell played in the top five in nearly every tournament and Tyler didn’t miss very many. Those two guys were a staple of our program the last four years.”
The good news is that the 2018-19 team will have Samek, Steele and Zikas to build around. This year’s roster also included junior Grant Suchanek and freshmen Harrison Helmer and Jayden Neal.