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Season preview: 2017-18 Concordia men's golf

By Jacob Knabel on Aug. 25, 2017 in Men's Golf

Head Coach: Brett Muller (7th year)
2016-17 GPAC Finish: 7th (300-343-324-314–1,281)
Key Returners: Tyelr Ehresman (Sr.); Russell Otten (Sr.); Tylar Samek (So.); Nolan Zikas (Jr.).
Key Newcomers: Harrison Helmer; Jayden Neal; Nicholas Sandoval; Kort Steele.
Key Losses: Jared Knoepfel; Reid Wiebe.
2017 GPAC All-Conference: Nolan Zikas (24th).

The 2016-17 Concordia men’s golf season brought highs, such as the team record single round score of 288, and lows, as evidenced by the disappointing finish to the conference championships. A climb up from last season’s seventh place GPAC finish will require more consistency. That aim appears achievable given the return of four experienced and steady performers.

The likes of seniors Tyler Ehresman and Russell Otten, junior Nolan Zikas and sophomore Tylar Samek possess a combined total of 117 rounds of collegiate golf experience. Otten and Zikas have both tasted tournament victory and were the team’s top two golfers, in terms of season average, in 2016-17.

Says Otten, “I want to win another tournament individually. I won one my freshman year but I still want another one. As a team, I think we can definitely break some records this year as far as average score for the season. That low score of 288 can definitely be broken. We want it. We’re really working hard for that.”

The record breaking performance last September at the Blue River Classic gave a glimpse of the level the Bulldogs are capable of reaching. Concordia also turned in four other rounds of 300 or lower. Seventh-year head coach Brett Muller’s squad turned in an exact 300 in the first GPAC championship round, putting the team in third place at the time. However, things unraveled in the spring, leaving a “bad taste,” according to Otten.

Muller did a solid job bringing the golf programs up to a respectable level. Now the trick is making that next jump.

“On both teams we just need more consistency,” Muller said. “We need better scoring at the 3, 4 and 5 spots on both teams. I feel pretty confident in what we have coming in. I feel like both teams can definitely make a move up in the conference standings.”

Few players on the roster have showed great consistency than Zikas, who has been an inspirational figure in the way that he has fought cancer since high school. The native of La Vista, Neb., shot 73 or better in six of 17 rounds as a sophomore while earning all-conference honors for the second year in a row. Zikas is that guy who carries a smile even when times get tense.

“He’s a great teammate,” Otten said. “He’s always supportive and always there for you and helping you out with your swing and everything. His personality just keeps the mood light if we’re in a pressure situation or things get down a little. He always helps lift up the team and changes the whole culture.”

Like Zikas, Otten has the ability to play with the best in the conference. Otten and Zikas team with Samek on solid trio at the top of the lineup. Samek carded a season best 72 at the Siouxland Invitational. He’s determined to finish stronger along with the rest of his teammates.

There’s also a group of four freshmen headed by North Platte native Kort Steele, who won seven high school tournaments and owns the North Platte High School record with 36 career medals. Steele and the freshman class will have a shot to crack the five-man lineup.

“Our spots are pretty open,” Muller said. “We have four guys who have played quite a few varsity tournaments, but you still have to come in and prove yourself. We have some capable new additions that will definitely push for those top five spots.”

The Concordia men’s golf season will tee off at the Midland Fall Invite next Friday and Saturday (Sept. 1-2) at Oakland Country Club in Oakland, Neb. The GPAC Fall Championships will unfold Oct. 2-3 in Sioux Falls, S.D.