NMU golf continues to struggle

ben.hocking

Northern Michigan’s golf team continued its struggles from last season this week while competing in the first NCAA Regional Tournament in Holland, Mich.

NMU placed 22nd out of the 24 teams that participated in the NCAA Regional Tournament in Holland Mich. this past Sunday and Monday. In their only other tournament so far this year, NMU finished 11th out of 12 in the Saginaw Valley State Invitational.

Freshman Peter Jensen placed top amongst the Wildcats in both these tournaments, finishing 19th at the Saginaw Valley Invite and 59th at the NCAA regionals. NMU head coach Dean Ellis acknowledges Jensen as the team’s best player.

“He’s played well in the first two tournaments,” he said.

During the 2008 season, NMU finished last in the standings out of the nine schools that supported a varsity golf program within the GLIAC.

Ellis, who doubles as the head coach of NMU’s men’s basketball team, attributes the team’s poor finishes to ongoing problems that are keeping some of his most talented golfers off the course.

“We lost 4 of our 6 best players,” said Ellis, who cited difficulties with NCAA rules regarding eligibility for these players.

The golf team perennially faces obstacles due to the extended Upper Peninsula winters, which make it difficult for the team to gain experience on actual golf courses.

“It’s like playing a guitar without touching it for months,” said Jensen. “You’re going to struggle.”

The long UP winters are not only making it difficult for golfers to practice, they are also deterring potential recruits.

Lake Superior State University, a golf team new to the GLIAC conference this year, is also finding the U.P. weather uncooperative.

“We are in the same boat,” said Jamie Davidson, head golf coach at LSSU. “The top [golf] prospects are going to go to other places.”

Ellis sees the Superior Dome on campus as a tool that has potential to solve some of the team’s weather related problems, though he admits the facility isn’t ideal for the development of the team.

“It’s a challenge to get time in the dome,” he said. “The facility is used for a number of things.”

Ellis is also concerned that the Superior Dome doesn’t adequately simulate an actual golf course.

“You don’t get mental strategy in the dome,” he said. “You need to play the game to get better at the game.”

NMU’s next scheduled tournament is the GLIAC conference championship, which is scheduled to occur at Greywalls Golf Course in Marquette Oct. 3-5. Ellis is optimistic due to his team’s familiarity with the course.

“I’m hoping we can finish in the middle of the field.” he said.