In what was supposed to be their last chance to set the tone for the conference championship, the Prairie Fire came up a few strokes short of their expectations this past weekend.
It did not help that none of the 14 holes they played the first day of the Scot-Fire Invitational counted.
Knox came out firing on Friday, looking sharp until heavy rain forced golfers off the course. The first round’s scores were then thrown out since none of the teams had played the same nine holes—the minimum needed for a weather-shortened round to be official.
The next day, at Soangetaha Country Club, Knox failed to reestablish the rhythm they had prior to the cancellation. The Fire finished sixth in the field of ten, losing by 17 strokes to reigning conference champion Monmouth. In spite of the poor round, the men defeated conference rivals Illinois College and Grinnell.
With this weekend behind them, the team is ready to do what it has done frequently this season: rebound from disappointment.
“Although nobody played as well as we wanted at the Scot-Fire, we remain confident about our chances at conference,” said senior David Marquardt. “But in order to win, we definitely need to play better than we have.”
“All year we’ve been a solid fourth score away from competing and having six guys this week [compared to five for the other invites] helps our chances,” he added.
Representing Knox at the MWC which is hosted by Aldeen Country Club in Rockford, will be Marquardt and fellow senior Arjun Rao, sophomores Kevin Foerster, Bryce Goodman and Taylor Mueller, and freshman Kevin Morris.
Depth is certainly not a problem for this year’s squad as head coach C.J. Rugh said he would have felt confident bringing any of ten guys who competed for those varsity spots.
Compared to past teams he has belonged to (including the 2006 team which won the MWC), Marquardt said the 2008 squad is “much more focused on not beating itself and is less worried about other schools.”
“This helps when we play those teams as we don’t get intimated or caught up in what they are doing,” said Marquardt, who believed this was one reason last year’s team “peaked a week too soon” and finished a disappointing second at conference.
Barring any weather issues, the three-round tournament starts Wednesday and concludes on Friday. The winning team earns an automatic berth at the NCAA National Championship Tournament.
For Coach Rugh, the keys to winning at Aldeen are simple.
“If we can play well that first day and putt up to our ability, things favor us,” he said.