Last Friday, David Marquardt put the perfect cap on his collegiate golf career with a 14th place finish at the Division III National Championships.
Birdying his final hole as a member of Prairie Fire, Marquardt carded a 298 for the four-round tournament to become the fifth golfer in Knox history to win All-America honors.
He also finished only a stroke behind a group of golfers who tied for tenth overall. Asked what it felt like to miss the first team All-America by such a small margin, Marquardt remained pragmatic.
“With golf you never are really truly satisfied with a round. There are always a few strokes left out there and in a four-day tournament those add up quickly,” he said. “But at the same time, it could have been much worse, and I am plenty happy with second team.
Playing at the National Championships with the nation’s best is one of the finest moments of my golf career,” Marquardt said.
The team’s head coach will be moving on as well. After finishing his Master’s degree in sport management at Western Illinois University, C.J. Rugh, a Knox alum and four-time letter winner in golf, is leaving the team to take a position with the Minnesota Vikings NFL franchise.
“He was our friend first. He was a senior when I was a freshman and he helped me and provided leadership when I needed it. Then he did a great job coaching,” Marquardt said of Rugh, who spent seven victorious years with the Fire, winning three Midwest Conference Championships—two as coach, one as player.
This year, Rugh, who was unavailable for comment, lead the Prairie Fire to a surprising conference championship, the 29th in school history. After the team defeated heavily favored Monmouth, he called the victory “easily the most meaningful” of his career because the young team was not expected to win.
“He coached us to two conference titles in his three years, I don’t think there are any other coaches that can match that kind of winning percentage,” said Marquardt, who captained the Knox squad to its first appearance at nationals since 1988.
And although team-wise, the performance at nationals was not quite up to par—the Knox men finished 32nd out of 35 teams and missed the cut after round two—neither Marquardt nor anyone else on the team were concerned about the future of the Prairie Fire.
“From the team standpoint, it was hard to know what to expect this past week because none of the other guys have played on this level before. Future national teams will fare much better because they will be more experienced,” Marquardt said.
What’s more, as Marquardt and fellow captain Arjun Rao are the only varsity members lost to graduation, the Fire will return with four out of six members of the 2008 MWC Championship squad. With a talented incoming class of recruits and plenty of current players ready to step it up to fill the two spots, the 2009 squad looks equally dangerous.
“Coach has done a great job with recruiting and setting this team up for future success,” Marquardt said. “They are very focused on next year. They not only want to go back [to nationals], but they want to go back and compete for the title.”
He said, “Watching the trophy presentation was the best thing for us. The younger guys know what they are playing for now, and I wish I had a couple more chances at it.”
Rugh also coached of the women’s golf and swimming teams at Knox. Men’s basketball coach Rob Purlee will take over coaching duties for the men’s golf team, while the filling of the women’s golf position will depend on the person hired to coach the women’s basketball team. There is no word yet for the swimming coach.