Peaking at the right time and course setup are factors
NDSU men’s golf Head Coach Steve Kennedy, like any great coach, is looking forward to this weekend’s Summit League Championship tournament. The challenge of competing against conference foes and taking on another course layout is plenty to get the competitive juices flowing. “I’m looking forward to seeing what our guys can do,” said Kennedy. The Bison will play three 18-hole rounds next week on May 1-3 at Sand Creek Station Golf Club in Newton, Kan.
This edition of the Bison men’s golf team has done well. Like any other team that competes, they have been through their ups and downs, but this team looks ready for the league championships.
“You know,” said Kennedy. “We really started well, we won our second tourney [the Dove Mountain Intercollegiate] and then we went into a little bit of a slide. That can happen when you start out playing great. But we kept at it, kept working and we really turned it around in Omaha.”
Kennedy was pleasantly surprised by the team’s play at the start of the spring session. “I was impressed and honestly a little surprised at how well we came out to start the spring,” said Kennedy. “It is tough to practice in the ‘bubble’ for weeks and then come outdoors and start shooting 60s right away. It was impressive. Denver practices outside all year, Kansas City, Oral Roberts, they all get to practice outside. We don’t. We are in the ‘bubble’ and to come out of there and start shooting 60s was great.” The ‘bubble’ is the large dome-like structure that covers historic Dacotah Field over the winter. Most of the Bison athletic teams have used it at one time or another for a team or individual practices.
Back in late March, the men started to come around beginning with a third-place finish (out of nine teams) at the ‘Golfweek/Any Given Tuesday Intercollegiate’ played at True Blue Golf Club on Pawley’s Island, S.C. The Herd then followed that up with a win at the ‘Stampede at the Creek’ in Elkhorn, Neb., which was played at The Club at Indian Creek just two weeks ago.
“We really turned it around in Omaha,” said Kennedy. “The whole team began to play really well and consistently.”
One of those players is Brock Winter. The junior from Stillwater, Minn., has had a fantastic season including earning the Ticketmaster Summit League Golfer of the Week honor in a stretch of two out of three weeks. Winter’s round of 65 (-7), in the second round of the Stampede at the Creek, was the low round that helped the team tie a school record for a team-best round (-14). Winter won the individual title at the tournament with a score of 209 (-7) and led the Bison to another record. This for the largest winning team margin as the Bison finished 31 strokes ahead of the runner-up, St. Thomas.
Winter credits a swing change made last year and is using a different putter. But the biggest difference, he believes, is his approach to competition this spring. “I’ve approached my game from a stronger mental place this spring,” said Winter. “Golf is such a mental game and I strongly believe in the strength of the mind. It is the best part of my game, I think.”
Kennedy sees it as well. “Brock works so hard and has really grown into his game,” said Kennedy. “He is cool and level-headed. He doesn’t get too up or too down.”
Heading into this weekend’s championship, Winter likes NDSU’s chances. “We are such a hard-working team,” said Winter. “We are so like a family. This team has some great bonds.” Asked about other players on the team, Winter mentioned Ian Simonich. “Ian is another guy who is so tough mentally,” said Winter. “I think he’s going to do great this weekend. I think we [the team] will, too.”
Kennedy agreed. “I think Ian has the potential to do real well this weekend,” said Kennedy. “It will be his first league championship and his first time at Sand Creek, but he’ll be fine.” Kennedy thinks Jack Johnson and Nate Adams are players to watch as well. “I think Sand Creek sets up well for Jack and Nate,” said Kennedy. “For our whole team really, this is such a good driving team and if you are driving the ball well, you can score at Sand Creek.”
Kennedy, who is about to wrap up his ninth year at the Bison helm, said the team is confident. “We have a good history at Sand Creek,” said Kennedy. “We have five guys averaging in the 73-74 range and Nate, Jack, and Nate (Deziel) have good histories at Sand Creek.” It won’t take a lot for the Bison to have a big weekend according to Kennedy. “We just have to play within ourselves, play comfortable,” said Kennedy. “We do not need a hero. Just play like we can.”
You can follow along with the golf team at gobison.com.