MITCHELL, S.D. – Head coach Brett Muller could not have asked for a better start to GPAC play. By carding a team total of 300 at Wild Oak Golf Course in Mitchell, S.D., on Friday afternoon, the Concordia University men’s golf team broke a program record for the lowest score at a GPAC qualifier. With one of four GPAC rounds in the books for the season, Concordia sits in fourth place in the league.
Muller’s Bulldogs are nipping at the heels of Nebraska Wesleyan (294), Doane (299) and Midland (299) in a tight race. Even 10th-place Briar Cliff turned in a solid 310.
“To shoot a 300, everyone has to contribute,” Muller said. “You can’t just have one or two guys play well. Today everyone played well and Russell Otten turned in the best round of his career so far with a two-over par 74.”
Individually, Shawn Rodehorst topped a quartet of Bulldogs who posted scores in the 70s. A two-time all-conference performer, Rodehorst will enter the second conference qualifier tied for seventh place with a 73. That puts him three strokes off of leader Matt Unruh of Nebraska Wesleyan.
Rodehorst climbed towards the top of the leaderboard by shaking off a rough hole 13. He followed with birdies on 14, 15 and 16 and just missed another one on 17 before closing at one over par.
Rodehorst may joke that the key to Friday’s record-breaking team performance had something to do with the Bulldogs’ ultra-competitive mini-golf tournament at a Ramada Inn during last week’s road trip, but Muller provides a different explanation.
“We’ve got depth in our program now where 1 through 12 it’s very tight,” Muller said. “It can be tough to decide who the top five are each week. At next week’s GPAC preview meet in Fremont we’re actually taking 11 because it’s that tight. Practices are much more competitive. Guys know they have to play well to keep their spots.”
Following behind Rodehorst were Otten (74 – T11th), sophomore Reid Wiebe (75 – T14th) and two more freshmen, Tyler Ehresman (78 – T29th) and Payton DeVencenty (86 – 52nd). The collective effort produced a score 17 strokes lower than the team’s best qualifier round from the 2013-14 season in which the Bulldogs tied for eighth (317-345-326-325–1,313). Wiebe, the Bulldog Booster Club male athlete of the week, entered play leading the team with an average of 74.5 after four season rounds.
Friday’s performance marked a massive team improvement considering last season Concordia individuals combined to card five scores in the 70s over all four GPAC qualifiers. Rodehorst collected three of those totals himself.
“Before the season, on paper I knew we were very talented,” Muller said. “I thought we had a lot of guys capable of shooting in the 70s, but you have to go out there and prove it. I’m very pleased with what we’ve done. Our top five has four new guys and they’ve made an immediate impact.”
The Bulldogs have three meets remaining on the fall schedule. Next up is the Midland Invite at Fremont Golf Club on Tuesday. The second and final GPAC qualifier of the fall will be held at the same course in Fremont on Monday, Sept. 29.
Muller’s group hopes to stay within striking distance of the top of the conference as the fall season closes.
“Our goal every year is to win the conference. This year it’s definitely realistic and attainable,” Muller said. “We have good depth. We just need solid play every time out. If we can shoot in that 295-300 range at every qualifier we’ll be in the mix.”