Unlucky numbers 7: golf teams off their game at MIAC

By Will Kennedy

For MIAC golf, the conference meet serves as the official record of the fall season. Your place in the league is determined not by how well you performed in the tournaments leading up to one fateful weekend in October, but rather by how you compete as a team over a three-day-tournament at Bunker Hills Golf Course in Coon Rapids. For Macalester’s men’s and women’s teams, that weekend proved discouraging.Both the Scots squads finished seventh, dipping in the rankings from their previous year’s results and finishing well out of contention for the third place finish that both teams sought.

For the women, the performance was particularly disappointing. The team was riding a hot streak dating from the spring of last year when Karla Leon ’10 earned All-American status at the Division III National championships. Picking up where they left off this fall, the women registered their best round as a team in the program’s history last month at the Illinois Wesleyan Fall Classic and subsequently received their first national ranking when Golf World and the National Coaches Association picked them as the 23rd best D III team in the country.

The Scots seemed poised to match or better their third place MIAC mark from last year, but a rough three rounds of golf left the Scots stunned and deflated near the bottom of the MIAC.

“I think the pressure got to them,” Head Coach Martha Nause said. “They wanted to live up to their ranking and that took them out of their games.”

For the Scots, the loss was painful and sobering, but they hope, also a lesson for the future.

“What matters is if you improve or not after [the tournament],” Leon said. “We grew up a lot.”

The news isn’t all bad for the Scots who will look to work out the inconsistencies that plagued them during the conference meet. Mac will have all five of its golfers returning for next season when the Scots hope get back near the top of the MIAC.

An individual bright spot on an otherwise bleak tournament was junior Jordan Matheson’s second all-MIAC finish in as many years. Matheson was seventh overall in 2007 after finishing second in the tournament last year. Both she and Leon still have a good shot of qualifying for the national tournament in the spring. And when your eye is on nationals, the MIAC championship means less in the big picture.
“It’s just one more tournament,” Nause said. Things will get serious in the spring when everything begins to count double for those looking to earn a spot on the national stage.

On the men’s side, similar frustrations awaited the team at conference. After a sixth place finish at MIAC last year Men’s golf wanted more.

“We set a goal for third place,” Captain Matthew Arck ’09 said. “We knew it was going to be tough, but if everyone had played well, we could have done it.”

Like their female counterparts, however, the Scots failed to meet their expectations on the MIAC’s biggest stage. While the team dropped its combined score by 18 strokes from last year, increased conference competition saw them slide to seventh in the overall tournament rankings.

“Obviously we would have liked to finish higher,” top Mac finisher Jonathon Khil ’11 said. “You have to learn from each round of golf, and that’s what we’ll try to do.”

Khil led the team with rounds of 76, 72, and 77, finishing 11th overall and missing out on an All-MIAC honor and 10th place by one stroke. The Scots top four golfers combined for a respectable score of 305 on the second day at the par-72, 6,897 yard course, but allowed silly mistakes over the other two days to keep them low in the MIAC standings.

Before this year, the men’s team only had one golfer with tournament experience; next year it will have five as the men ,again like the women, plan to return every golfer.

“I think our best golf is still ahead of us,” Arck said.

Both the men and the women will have the winter to work out the kinks in their game before the spring season begins next April.