Luther Men’s Golf Grabs Lead in Conference Tournament

Ben Grotnes (‘17) putts at the Ronnie Eastman Invite earlier inthe season.

Photo Courtesy of Photo Bureau

Ben Grotnes (‘17) putts at the Ronnie Eastman Invite earlier inthe season.

Julia Curtis, Staff Writer

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Luther’s Men’s Golf Team played 18 of their 36-hole conference at the neutral Finkbine Golf Course in Iowa City, IA, on April 28. Due to inclement weather, the second round of 18 holes, scheduled for April 29, was canceled.

Despite the weather, Luther managed to finish the first day of competition in first place with an 11-stroke lead on Nebraska Wesleyan, and a 21-stroke lead on second runner-up Central College, who tied for third with Loras College. Luther led with 309 strokes, Nebraska Wesleyan followed with 320 strokes, and Central and Loras both had 330 strokes.

Luther’s five players, Andrew Betts (‘17), Joe Fewer (‘19), Ben Grotnes (‘18), Spencer Horst (‘19), and Peter Kephart (‘17) all scored in the top 15 out of 45 players at the conference. Fewer and Grotnes tied for first place, with scores of 76 and four strokes above par. Betts took third place with a score of 77 and five strokes above par. Kephart tied for sixth place with a player from Simpson College and scored 80 strokes. Horst tied with three other players for 13th place with a score of 82 points.

According to Kephart, the team lifts and plays pickup basketball during their off-season to stay in shape for competition.

“We went to Orlando for spring break and had an awesome week of practice,” Kephart said. “Playing a lot of golf and putting in the hours is the only way to get better at golf.”

Despite the unfavorable weather conditions, the team was prepared to handle adversity, according to Grotnes.

“One of the things we worked on is staying calm when things aren’t going our way,” Grotnes said. “In golf it’s easy to lose focus because you are angry. If we control our emotions at the conference tournament we have a good chance of winning.”

Head Men’s Golf Coach Scott Fjelstul (‘83) said the team has had a successful year because they have won two tournaments so far — one in the fall and one in the spring.

“The players work hard every week, they play both in the fall and the spring and work on all parts of their game,” Fjelstul said.

It is because of the effort that the team put into playing this year that the members felt confident going into the last Iowa conference of the year. Three of the golfers played in the same conference in 2016 and won. The team prepared for this year’s conference by practicing on the conference courses, according to Betts.

“I think all of our scores throughout the spring have been really consistent,” Betts said. “I think overall consistency-wise, we are a good team. I think when it comes down to it, consistency will be the determining factor in the Florida championship.”

The Men’s Golf team has played in the IIAC conference in Iowa City for the past 29 years. 20 years ago, the IIAC changed the number of holes they played for the conference to match the NCAA championships, where competitors play 72 holes.

The IIAC conference tournament, hosted by Simpson College, will resume in Indianola, IA, on May 6. Coaches are deliberating between golfers playing the regularly scheduled 36 holes over May 5 and 6 for a total of 54 holes at the end of the conference, and playing 54 holes over the same period to reach the total 72 holes.

“We are still waiting for the coaches to get together and decide a plan for the weekend,” Kephart said. “Either way we are going to go out and play like it’s a new tournament.”

If the men win the conference next weekend, they will play in the NCAA Division III championship in Howey-in-the-Hills, FL, May 16-19.

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