Head Coach: Brett Muller (11th year)
2020-21 GPAC Finish: 9th (342-330-315-321–1,308)
Key Returners: Nathan Auffet; Drew D’Ercole; Gavin McWhorter; Jacob Woodmancy; Jack Williams; Ivan Yabut.
Key Loss: Jayden Neal.
2020-21 GPAC All-Conference: Drew D’Ercole (Honorable Mention).
Preseason preparation has begun in earnest as the first week of classes has arrived. Since last season concluded in late April, the Concordia University Men’s Golf team has set its sights on making a move within the GPAC. There certainly are reasons for positivity as the Bulldogs welcome back seven players who competed in 10 or more rounds in 2020-21 while also breaking in the largest class of newcomers the program has ever put together.
Head Coach Brett Muller, who enters his 11th season leading the men’s and women’s golf teams, believes the competition will be fierce for spots within the varsity lineup. Drew D’Ercole is the clear headlining returner after earning honorable mention All-GPAC accolades in his second collegiate season.
Said Muller, “We need to be more consistent at three through five. This is the biggest recruiting class we’ve brought in during my 10 years at Concordia. We have seven new men’s players coming in this year. I think we’ll have a lot of depth. Our practice qualifying will be more competitive so we can hopefully create more of a tournament atmosphere in practice. That should lead to us competing better in tournaments.”
Concordia placed ninth as a team in the final GPAC standings while being led by D’Ercole (21st place), Ivan Yabut (31st) and Jayden Neal (38th). The latter is the only significant departure, in terms of scoring averages from last season. The Bulldogs showed what they are capable of when they carded a two-round score of 297-295–592 at the Red Raider Cup in the spring. However, D’Ercole (76.8 average) was the lone Concordia golfer to post a sub-80 18-hole average.
A native of Papillion, Neb., D’Ercole was a breakout star in 2020-21. The highlight moment of the campaign came at the Doane Spring Invite when D’Ercole claimed the tournament title after outlasting a strong opponent in two playoff holes. D’Ercole shot 75 or lower in 10 of 16 rounds last season.
“Pretty much the entire spring, except that last round of GPAC, is where I wanted to be,” D’Ercole said. “The last round of GPAC kind of fueled the fire for me this summer. Otherwise, I was pretty close to where I wanted to be. This season the goal is to be better than what I was last season.”
Said Muller of D’Ercole, “He’s not going to be outworked. He puts the time in during the summer and during the season he’s one of the first guys to show up and one of the last to leave. It shouldn’t be a surprise that he had the success he had last year. I know his goal is to win the conference individually. That’s a pretty high expectation for himself, but he’s going to put in all the work he can so he can achieve that goal.”
Based on last season’s scoring averages, the top returners (in addition to D’Ercole) are Yabut (80.0), Jacob Woodmancy (81.6), Nathan Auffet (83.2), Gavin McWhorter (83.5) and Jack Williams (83.6). Yabut turned in a 17th place finish at the Ottawa Fall Invite while carding a score of 75-77–152.
Of the newcomers, six are from within the state of Nebraska. That list includes the younger brother of Drew D’Ercole – Josh. Muller will have a much better idea of how the newcomers fit in as the opening week of practice unfolds at the team’s home course, Highlands Golf Course in Lincoln. Once the fall turns to winter, the golf programs will now have the benefit of a brand new simulator that is housed inside the on-campus Hitting Center.
Five events (all 36 holes) will make up the team’s fall slate (the spring schedule is not yet announced). The fall portion of the GPAC Championships will run Sept. 27-28 in Elkhorn, Neb. The goal for the Bulldogs is to put themselves in a position to at least finish near the middle of the conference pack.
“We’ll have more guys capable of shooting around par,” Muller said. “That’s definitely going to help push our returners. Coming from the high school to the college game there is a little bit of a learning curve with the yardage that we’re playing and also playing some tougher courses.”
There is no margin for error if D’Ercole is going to compete for a top-five spot in the GPAC. Said D’Ercole, “For us to be successful this year we have to move up in the conference. Last season we finished ninth, so we want to be more middle-to-upper part of the conference. For me individually, finishing top five at the conference tournament is always the goal – maybe even get a win and get a bid to the national tournament.”