Originally published April 23, 2013
AURORA, ILL. — The MSOE Men’s Golf team is the champion of the Northern Athletic Conference and will represent the league in the NCAA Division III Men’s Golf Championship after riding a tournament-best team score of 303 in the final round of the 2013 NAC Tournament to victory yesterday at Stonebridge Country Club in Aurora, Ill.
Scott Loftus (Jr./Germantown, Wis./BE) led the way for the Raiders, winning the individual conference title by recording a 1-under-par 71 final round to finish the event with a 10-over-par 298. The 71 equalled the NAC Championship single-round record and was seven strokes better than Marian College’s Cory Ashbeck and his 17-over-par 305. Miguel Diaz-Garcia (Fr./Gijon, Spain/EE) and Jacob Phelps (Fr./Loves Park, Ill./EE) were part of a three-way tie for seventh place with a 29-over-par 317.
“You could see Loftus’ confidence improve more and more as the tournament went on,” head coach Joe Meloy said. “He started hitting his mid-range irons really well and the putts started falling, too.”
As part of the weekend’s events, Loftus was also named the NAC’s Roger Fleming Player of the Year and earned a spot on the all-conference team alongside Phelps and Diaz-Garcia. Meloy was named NAC Coach of the Year, while Victor Aiello (Jr./Kenosha, Wis./ME) earned the conference’s Sportsmanship Award.
“Aiello deserves more credit than he’s going to get,” Meloy said. “He pushes the guys to get out there and really work at their game. His effort made a bigger difference than what shows up on the scorecard.”
The uniquely formatted tournament actually began on Oct. 15, 2012 when 10 teams began the first of a planned two fall rounds in Haven, Wis. at the Whistling Straits Irish Course, with two more scheduled for Stonebridge in the spring. MSOE trailed Edgewood College by one stroke, 313-312, after the first round, but the second round was postponed to the spring and Aurora by inclement weather on the final day of the fall event, then was again pushed back from its rescheduled April 20 date by more weather issues.
Once things got back underway Sunday, the Raiders charged to the lead with a second-round score of 315, 10 strokes better than Edgewood and seven strokes better than any other school remaining. Loftus’ 2-over-par 74 was two strokes better than any other competitor in cold and windy conditions.
In the first of the final two rounds of the tournament yesterday, Edgewood pushed to come back, using a 74 from Patrick Bohrer to a 16-over-par 304 team score to pull within just one stroke of the Raiders. But Loftus’ 71 was three strokes better than Bohrer’s second 74 of the day in the fourth round and marked the difference between the two teams as MSOE’s net, 91-over-par total of 1,243 ended up besting Edgewood’s 94-over-par 1,246.
The conference title is the Raiders’ third as a member of the NAC and the 13th under Meloy, whose teams dominated the Lake Michigan Conference before MSOE’s move to the NAC in 2006. The victory marks just the third time, however, the Raiders have qualified for the NCAA Championship, which will be held May 14-17 at the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort in Destin, Fla. The Raiders’ first trip to the national championship came in 2009, when MSOE finished just one stroke away from qualifying for the 23-team final. MSOE last appeared in the tournament in 2011.
“You go for the experience,” Meloy said. “I don’t necessarily have any expectations. I just want my guys to understand how special it is to compete on that kind of stage. I’m very excited for them.”