WU golf wins first tournament

Eric Smith

The Washburn men’s golf program has been a powerhouse in Division II for several years. And while the Ichabod’s season has been anything but ordinary, last week at the MIAA Men’s Championship Tournament was a sign that they’re ready for the postseason.

The Bods won the three-round final MIAA event held in Kansas City, Mo. at the Shoal Creek Golf Club by 20 strokes.

“I think finally for the first time all year our whole team kind of stepped up,” said Dustin Yeager, who finished 14th with a 17-over 230. “We finally put five rounds together where all our scores were pretty consistent.”

In the two-day tournament, Washburn effectively put the competition away on Monday shooting a 298 and 297 to take a 17-stroke lead into Tuesday. From there, the Bods coasted, gaining three more strokes on the field to finish with a 27-over 879 for the tournament.

“It was really satisfying to get a win last week, and I was really happy for the guys because I felt like it helped their confidence,” said coach Doug Hamilton. “It came at a good time, getting us mentally ready for the regionals.”

It was the third straight victory for the Bods at the MIAA Championship and fifth under Hamilton. For the final MIAA standings, Washburn finished second to Central Missouri, who won every other conference tournament held this season.

Washburn had four top 10 finishers, including Matt Ewald, who came in at second shooting three rounds of 72 for a 3-over 216, Matt Salome in third with a 6-over 219, Matt Lazzo in sixth with a 10-over 223 and Sam Wempe, who finished 10th with a 14-over 227.

Riley Piles and Nate Sargent, playing as individuals, tied for 24th with a 21-over 234.

Salome had the best round for any individual shooting a 65 in the second round. The next closest one round score was a 70.

MIAA honors were given out to 20 golfers including All-MIAA first team to Ewald, Salome and Wempe. It was the fourth such honor for Ewald and the second for Salome. Lazzo also was honored with honorable mention All-MIAA.

The first win of the season for the Bods, it was the first team tournament win in nearly a year, the most previous coming last May at the Division II Central Regional.

“Our program the last few years has done a good job,” said Hamilton. “And every year we’ve won three, four, five, six tournaments a year. So to go this deep into the season without having won a tournament, if you look at just that, well you say it hasn’t been that good of a season.

“But over the last week or so I’ve kind of put things in perspective and you know we’ve really had a good season. We’ve had a lot of top five finishes, several seconds and thirds and what not. And at the end of the day I look at it, and we’re ranked 11th in the country. You can be an awfully good golf team and not win a lot of tournaments.”

The Bods are now headed to their eighth straight NCAA Super Regional, earning the No. 2 seed in the South Central Regional, which will be held May 4-6 at the Meadows Golf Club in Allendale, Mich.

The 20-team regional features No. 1 seed Central Oklahoma and MIAA powers Central Missouri and Missouri Southern. To advance to the Division II National Championship, the Bods must finish in the top five team scores. This year’s D-II finale will be held May 19-22 at Loomis Trail Golf Club in Blaine, Wash., and hosted by Western Washington University.

A few of the Bods have seen the Meadows course before, as both Lazzo and Ewald played in the 2007 Division II National Championship in which the Bods finished a school-high fifth.

“I think it’s going to be a much different golf course than what we played,” said Hamilton. “They had it set up for a national championship the way they had the rough and the greens. It was as close to U.S. Open conditions as what those guys have ever seen.

“I think we’re going to find an easier golf course than we played in the national tournament. But by the same token, the scores are going to have to be better so we’re going to have to go in with the mindset that we’re going to have to put up some good numbers if we want to reach our goal.”

Every year after the MIAA tournament and before the NCAA regional tournament, the team holds an inter-squad match play tournament. It gives the team members a chance to get some tournament action against each other during the break and still have a good time.

“It’s fun, it keeps it real competitive and on your toes,” said Yeager. “I actually went 25 holes with one of the guys on my team. We played seven extra holes so we didn’t end up getting home until late.”

With the time off that the Bods have, they will work to catch up on school work as well as have a week of tough practice to prepare for the NCAA regional tournament.

“We’re practicing pretty hard this week,” said Yeager. “Trying to balance school work and get some of the papers done before we leave for regionals.”