Fresh off a disappointing finish a week ago in chilly Dubuque, the men’s Prairie Fire golf team returned to Iowa over the weekend, this time to Waverly. But conditions were not any better for the Wartburg Invitational as it snowed for most of Saturday. The course was windy and icy for the tournament’s duration.
On paper the Prairie Fire struggled again, coming in at the tail end of the 20-team field. However, a quick glance at the 17th place finish will not immediately reflect the marked improvement made by the Knox men between the two rounds of the invite.
Sophomore Kevin Foerster dropped 11 strokes in the final 18 holes. Starting to show that he can put together a round equal to his substantial talent, Foerster finished fourth on the team.
Freshman Kevin Morris also improved by two strokes on his way to solid 168. Head coach C.J. Rugh described Morris, the team’s second scorer at Wartburg, as a very “coolheaded,” consistent and intelligent golfer.
Morris needed all three of these attributes to finish-up his second round after a particularly bad eighth hole.
Teeing off on the par-five, Morris’ drove a rare-for-him errant ball into the weeds. After a drop, he hit it twice more into the rough. Morris ended up five strokes over par for the hole but stayed calm, and shot two-under-par for the remaining ten holes to card an 82 for the round.
“I always think what’s done is done, and I just move on,” said Morris.
The only Prairie Fire golfer not to improve score-wise over the weekend was senior David Marquardt. Knox’s top golfer carded an excellent 76 for the first round, which tied for the fifth lowest round of the invite, and an 80 for the second, resulting in a fourteenth finish overall.
Marquardt, who will likely compete for individual honors in the conference, was not completely satisfied with his play, particularly in round two. But considering the point in the season and poor weather, he is not overly concerned.
“Three weeks is a lot of time for the team, myself included, to get out of this funk,” said Marquardt. “We are not giving up.”
Coach Rugh was encouraged by the team’s play at Wartburg.
“We definitely took a step in the right direction this weekend,” said the third-year head coach. “With the number of new guys we have, this season is shaping up pretty much how I expected it to.”
“These next few weeks will be telling,” Rugh said.
The Prairie Fire will look to improve on Sunday’s performance this coming weekend. Knox will travel to Ottumwa, Iowa for the Indian Hills Invitational. Midwest Conference rivals Grinnell and Monmouth will also be in attendance.
According to Marquardt, this tournament should be interesting as the course is more favorable to the Fire’s style of golf.
“We’re not a very long driving team, but we keep it in the fairway,” he said. “This course is a little shorter than the previous two at Loras and Wartburg, and that should help us.”
Looking ahead at the MWC championship tournament in three weeks, Marquardt, Morris and Rugh all expect Knox to compete for the top team honors.
“As long as we find four solid, dependable guys to back up Arjun [Rao] and David [Marquardt], I like our chances,” said Morris.