cold_golf01.jpgBILL GAITHER/The Register-Mail

Monmouth College's Doug Middendorf blows on his hand to keep it warm while Knox College's David Marquardt marks his ball on the 10th green Saturday afternoon at Gibson Woods Golf Course in Monmouth.

Golfers just chillin'

Scots, Fire resort to layered look

Sunday, April 8, 2007

MONMOUTH - A forecast of temperatures in the mid-to-low 30s was enough to convince most of the Galesburg area spring sports to pack it in and take the weekend off.

On a day when baseball, softball and track were cancelled, collegiate golfers braved the frigid temperatures and whipping winds. Knox College senior Ryan Meier isn't sure what that says about the mental makeup of golfers.

"I don't know. Maybe we're just a little more crazy," Meier said with a laugh.

Despite difficult playing conditions, the Monmouth College men's golf team utilized its home course advantage for a three-stoke victory in the inaugural Scot-Fire Invitational at Gibson Woods Golf Course on Saturday.

Monmouth and Knox Colleges combined forces this year to create a two-day weekend tournament that attracted a total of 14 teams. Right on cue, freezing temps hit the area and caused scores to soar into the 80s and 90s in Friday's first round at Soangetaha Country Club.

The cold conditions convinced four Midwest Conference teams to leave after the first day, including St. Norbert, Beloit, Ripon and Lawrence. But with the conference tournament less than a month away, the Monmouth and Knox coaches decided to carry on and finish the invite Saturday.

Monmouth golf coach Dave Ragone is used to the cold. He is also the offensive line coach for the Monmouth football team and the weekend weather was more akin to a November football game than a spring month. Ragone joked that since men's golf was the lone sport that would brave the elements, it made them the toughest team on campus.

After looking at the impending forecast, Ragone knew what to expect. "We talked all week that the weather was going to be bad," Ragone said. "Our kids did a great job mentally on Friday of just getting through the conditions. I told them they aren't allowed to complain about the weather."

Monmouth kept its composure as the Red squad was in the lead by two strokes after the first day. Individually, Meier paced the field with an impressive 1-over-par score of 73 to take a five-shot lead. Knox coach C.J. Rugh said Meier seems to excel when conditions are difficult and that the 73 was one of the best rounds he has seen all year.

While Friday's bitter cold was a big issue, Saturday featured 20 to 30 mph winds that blew balls all over the course. Monmouth golfer and native Justin Martin said the wind gusts on Saturday presented the biggest challenge and that it was tough to control the flight of the ball. With the windchill lowering temps even farther, players were forced to add layers of clothing that also constrained their swings.

Add in the narrow fairways and multitudes of trees and Gibson Woods posed quite the challenge. With the college located not far across the road, Monmouth had a definite advantage.

"This course is pretty difficult for people that haven't played it," Martin said. "You have to know where you're going with the ball. We probably have an advantage on anyone in the field."

Meier said the reasons he scored well on Friday was that he hit the ball really well, didn't make any big mistakes and also made his putts. On Saturday, Meier said he couldn't hit a green to save his life, leading to a 78.

Iowa Wesleyan's Jordan Crampton made up the five-shot deficit and then some by shooting a weekend low score of 2-under-par 69 to take first place. The second-place trophy was small consolation to Meier.

"When you don't win with a five-shot lead, that's pretty frustrating," Meier said. "Hats off to Jordan, he shot a 69 today. If I had played like I should have, then it shouldn't have been an issue."

Monmouth took first-place as a team with a team score of 632. Iowa Wesleyan took second place with a 635, and Knox took fifth with a 664. The Prairie Fire are the defending MWC champion, and Rugh thinks his team can defend its championship if they can get their heads in the game.

"We need to focus better," Rugh said. "Physically the talent is there and we have the ability to do it. Right now we just need to get mentally better and change the way we are approaching the game."

As the season winds to a close, warmer weather would be music to Martin's ears as he stood bundled in the clubhouse with his red and black layers of clothing and winter hat.

"I'm definitely looking forward into getting into just shorts and a polo to play golf," Martin said. "Hopefully those days are coming quickly."

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