Junior golfer makes impact at WU after choosing golf over soccer

Eric Smith

The Washburn golf team would be much different had junior Matt Ewald gone to another university to play soccer instead of playing golf for the Ichabods.

“When I recruited Matt, he was not a heavily recruited golfer coming out of high school,” said coach Doug Hamilton. “He was much more sought after for his soccer ability. He had quite a few schools trying to get him to come play soccer for them. However, his desire was to continue his golf career and not his soccer.”

Hamilton and the Washburn golf team lucked out. In Washburn’s short golf history Ewald has been one of the team’s greatest players.

It all started with his first year as an Ichabod when he was the team MVP and won all-region and all-conference honors.

“The first time I saw Matt play I knew that he just had great potential,” said Hamilton. “He was very, very powerful, and he had a very controlled ball flight. And he showed nice feel and finesse around the green so I just thought, this kid had unlimited upside.

“As a freshman, he came in and was ready to play. He just started making an immediate impact on our team. And he has just continued to get better from that time.”

Ewald won MIAA player of the year as a sophomore, also making second team all-American and the all-region team.

This season his stroke average is the best season scoring average of any golfer in the history of Washburn, with 71.0 strokes per round. He has one first-place finish and one second-place finish. His win came at the Fort Hays State Invitational where he set the course record, shooting an 8-under 63.

“It’s just one of those things. You go out and you’re playing good one day, and you get things going,” said Ewald. “One thing leads to another, you make some birdies. I mean, it’s obviously not a big deal to me, but it’s nice to say I went out and tied that course record.”

Coach Hamilton wasn’t as modest about the event that currently stands as the lowest round in Washburn golf history.

“I don’t care whether you’re playing a pitch and putt. You still have to make a lot of putts and hit a lot of good shots,” said Hamilton. “Sixty-three is an unbelievable score. I got calls after we got home from people around Fort Hays. They were amazed at that score, especially with the wind blowing the way it was that day.”

Matt also has the best career scoring average of any golfer at Washburn with 73.3 strokes per round and takes being a leader on the team very seriously.

“Well, I think in golf, being a team leader is not just being one of the top players on the team,” said Ewald. “I think being a leader is getting your friends and your teammates out and practicing in 45 degree weather so we can get ready for big tournaments that we have coming up.”

With the Ichabods hoping to make it deep into the NCAA Tournament this spring, Ewald will play a key role.

“Even though Matt is not a real vocal person a lot of the time, he’s definitely a leader on our team,” said Hamilton. “Guys really look up to him. They respect his ability, and I think they all realize that he puts a lot of work into his game.”