Luther College Chips

Men’s golf tees off conference tournament, hopes to win third title

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Ben Grotnes (‘18) prepares to hit the ball.

Ben Grotnes (‘18) prepares to hit the ball.

Photo courtesy of Lori Pierce

Photo courtesy of Lori Pierce

Ben Grotnes (‘18) prepares to hit the ball.

Rozlyn Paradis, Staff Writer

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The Luther College Men’s Golf team will compete in the four-day Conference Championship Tournament. The conclusion of the tournament is Saturday, May 4 and Sunday, May 5.

The first round of play was held at the University of Iowa. The second will be held at Wartburg College. The team with the lowest combined score will move on to nationals in South Carolina.

Five Luther men make up the tournament team: Joe Fewer (‘19), Ben Grotnes (‘18), Spencer Horst (‘19), JP Knutson (‘20), and Bryce Pierce (‘18). Over the two weekends, a total of 72 holes will be played with a par of 288. The lowest four individual scores will be counted towards the team’s total.

The University of Iowa always hosts the first weekend of tournament play for the Conference Championships. It is a quality course that the team is familiar with. The second course, at Wartburg, has not been played by any member of the Luther Men’s Golf team. The Thursday before play, the team will complete a practice round on the course.

Head Coach Scott Fjelstul was excited going into the tournament as the “Two-Time Defending Champion” with two returning all-conference players: Grotnes and Fewer. Coach Fjelstul and his players feel confident about “three-peating” this year.

“This will be our chance to win three in a row,” Horst said. “I think the pressure is on to three-peat. Our goal for this year has been to win a third, it’s been our mentality all year. It will be breaking history again, no one had ever won back-to-back before and this would be winning back-to-back-to-back. It would be super cool and super fun.”

Photos courtesy of Lori Pierce.
Connor Gossman (‘18), JP Knutson (‘20), Ben Grotnes (‘18), Bryce Pierce (‘18), Spencer Horst (‘19), Joe Fewer (‘19), and Head Coach Scott Fjelstul.

As for all spring sports this year, preparing for competition has been challenging.

“This has been a very difficult spring because of all the snow and cold weather,” Fjelstul said. “We have normally had six rounds of tournament competition in normal years and outside practice for at least three weeks. This year, we are just inside hitting balls into nets.”

Fjelstul wishes the team had more outdoor practice, but feels the team has overcome the challenges of inclement weather. He is uncertain how the competition will be this weekend due to the limited tournaments. He believes the lack of experience against other schools is independent of his team’s performance.

“I don’t really worry about other schools and how they are playing,” Fjelstul said. “We just worry about ourselves and how we are playing, and we worry about our preparation.”

Horst is confident in the team’s ability to perform in the championship.

“I think we are true performers,” Horst said. “When the time is needed, we are there to play. When the pressure is on, we perform as we need to be.”

Horst’s only concern is for poor course condition, but that remains a constant concern for all teams playing in the tournament. He remains confident as he says they will play with the cards they are dealt and improvise to overcome the circumstances.

The first weekend is crucial for the final standing of the tournament.

“We are trying to get into a good position after the first weekend,” said Grotnes. “You can lose it the first day, but you can’t really win it the first day. You are just trying to go out there, put your team in a strong place, and remain in the first seed for the following weekend.”

After this first weekend of play, Luther stands in the strong place Grotnes was hoping for. They are third out of nine conference teams, down 15 strokes from first place. The current total is +41 with 606 strokes. The final 36 holes will be played next weekend at Wartburg.

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