Gustie golfers aim for MIAC title

Sophomore Alex Kolquist follows through after his shot. Kolquist will try to help the Gusties win the MIAC title. SportPix Photography.

Coming off a second-place finish at last weekend’s Frank Wrigglesworth Blugold Invitational, the Men’s Golf team has its eyes set on dethroning defending champion St. John’s at this weekend’s MIAC Championships.

In the Blugold Invitational, the Gusties fired an opening round of 302 and followed that up with a 306 in the final round to finish in second behind St. John’s.

Individually, Junior Alex Pederson led the team with a second-place finish, while Sophomore Alex Kolquist tied for seventh. The Gusties will compete at Bunker Hills Golf Course in Coon Rapids this Saturday through Monday for the Conference Championship.

“In our last tournament we played pretty well and we’re feeling pretty confident,” Pederson said. “We’re looking to step it up the rest of the season, because we know that if we play to our potential, we could be the team to beat [in the MIAC Championships].”

In order to bring home the MIAC title and secure an automatic berth in the spring’s NCAA Championships, the Gusties will have to sneak past a Johnnies squad that has not seen its regulars finish lower than third in a tournament this fall.

“We need to put all three rounds together and make things happen this weekend,” Kolquist said. “We beat St. John’s at the beginning of the year, and we know that we can do it again. We haven’t really played our best golf yet, so we’re really excited to see what happens when we all come to play on both days of the tournament.”

The Gusties started their fall season with a bang by winning the Augsburg Invitational, a tournament in which three Gusties occupied the top three spots on the leaderboard. First-year Simon Erlandsson took home top individual honors with a two-under par 142, while first-year Tyler McMorrow placed second and Kolquist tied for third.

“Winning the [Augsburg Invitational] made us more comfortable and helped raise our confidence a lot,” Erlandsson said, who won MIAC Men’s Golfer of the Week honors for the week of Sept. 14, 2010. “We think that we are the best team out there, and we were able to show that in the first tournament.”

The following weekend, the Gusties played in the St. John’s Invitational and placed fifth out of 21 teams. The team shot a combined 318 on the first day of the tournament and entered the round in 13th place, but on the final day of play, the Gusties turned in the lowest single round team score of the tournament with a 293.

“In our second tournament, we shot just about as bad as we could have on the first day,” Kolquist said. “Despite that, we came back with our best day yet to finish out the tournament.”

The team’s performance this fall has drawn comparisons by Head Coach Scott Moe to the 2003-04 NCAA Championship squad that brought a national title to Gustavus.

“We really have some great [first-years] on the team this year,” Pederson said. “Coach [Moe] has said that this may be the best team we’ve had since the team that won the National Championship, so we definitely have high expectations.”

The accomplishments of the men on the links this fall shine even brighter with a simple glance at youthful composition of the team’s roster. Of the 14 golfers on the team, only Pederson has reached junior status.

“The [first-years] are doing a great job stepping up this season,” Kolquist said. “It’s tough for them to come into such an important role right away in their first year, but they are doing a great job.”

The youthful nature of the current team has set the program up to be in contention for the MIAC title for years to come.

“We’re really good right now, and we’re not going to be losing anybody [to graduation] for a while,” Pederson said. “It’s nice to see how well our young team has played, because it means that the future looks really bright for this program.”

In addition to fielding a team of talented young players, the Gusties possess a level of depth that conference opponents will be hard pressed to match.

“Our top seven or eight guys are solid, and that makes us feel that we can compete well in any tournament,” Kolquist said. “It just shows how deep we are, even with such a young team.”

The team’s main weakness thus far has been its inability to post consistent scores from round to round. If the Gusties are able overcome this flaw at Bunker Hills, they will likely pose a threat to take the conference crown.

“We really have a good chance to win [the MIAC title],” Erlandsson said. “There’s lots of positivity on the course, and every piece is coming together. We know we can play really good golf this weekend.”