LINCOLN, Neb. – Nolan Zikas and the Concordia University men’s golf team relished the opportunity to return to the course and have an immediate opportunity to atone for a disappointing round on Tuesday. Competing at their home venue, Highlands Golf Course in Lincoln, the Bulldogs put together a strong outing, moving up five placements in the final standings of the two-day Blue River Classic co-hosted by Concordia and Doane.
The day two Bulldog charge was spearheaded by Zikas, who equaled a school single-round record by shooting a four-under-par 68 at Highlands. Seventh-year head coach Brett Muller’s squad carded a two-round total of 335-295–630, allowing it to move up from 13th place to eighth place by the conclusion of Wednesday afternoon’s action.
“We didn’t play our best (on Tuesday),” Muller said. “We knew coming to our home course we could definitely improve on yesterday’s score. You definitely have an advantage playing on your home course. I feel like we took advantage of that. Nolan played great all day. We had a lot of guys make a lot of birdies to help with our team score.”
Zikas, who entered the day as the team leader for lowest season average, certainly wasn’t satisfied with his 10-over-par 81 at Wilderness Ridge on Tuesday. Zikas finished the tournament with six birdies in his 36 holes while setting a new personal standard. His 68 was identical to the score Reid Wiebe shot at Highlands one year ago. On that same day, Zikas had shot a 71.
He got on a roll on this day. Only two of the 106 golfers at Highlands were able to outperform Zikas on Wednesday. Zikas finished in a tie for eighth on the overall leaderboard.
“I definitely wanted to beat the school record but I can’t be disappointed with a 68,” Zikas said. “There wasn’t much confidence going (on Tuesday), but I had to shake that off and really focus on putting a good stroke on the ball. I definitely could have went lower. I’ll take a 68.”
Three additional Bulldogs shot 77 or better on Wednesday, led by the 74 from senior Russell Otten, who shaved 13 strokes off his day one total. Concordia’s two through five positions at the Blue River Classic were manned by sophomore Tylar Samek (82-76–158; T-38th), Otten (87-74–161; T-52nd), freshman Kort Steele (85-77–162; T-58th) and senior Tyler Ehresman (88-80–168; T-73rd). Each player in the lineup carded a score at least six strokes better than their respective round one totals.
Three others golfed as individuals for the Bulldogs: freshmen Jayden Neal (87-83–170) and Harrison Helmer (87-84–171) and junior Grant Suchanek (94-83–177). All three had nearly identical scores at Highlands.
The most significant action of the season is coming up Oct. 2-3 when the GPAC Fall Championships take place at Willow Run Golf Course in Sioux Falls, S.D. The Bulldogs hope to move up from their seventh place conference finish in 2016-17. Zikas is a two-time all-conference performer.
“We played pretty well there last year,” Muller said of Willow Run. “It’s a course our guys should be somewhat familiar with. I think it fits our game pretty well. In the next week-and-a-half we need to fine-tune what we’re doing and sharpen up some things we haven’t been the best at to get us ready for the conference tournament.”