|Kellen, Redbirds capture first place|
|Written by Scott Gleeson, Daily Vidette Sports Editor|
|Tuesday, 13 October 2009 20:37|
Harsh weather conditions forecasted a darker outcome at Weibring Golf Course. But junior Jeff Kellen wasn’t about to let chilly temperatures or a damp course darken his performance.
Instead, the Redbird golfer found his equilibrium, firing a 1-under-par 209 (72-68-69) to win the individual title at the D.A. Weibring Intercollegiate, which was held Sunday and Monday.
“It’s my first college win so I feel like it’s a big break-through,” Kellen said. “I’ve been on the verge of playing well for a long time and I finally feel like I played up to my potential. The weather conditions were real tough. I was fortunate to come out on top.”
Kellen’s performance carried the ISU men’s golf team to its first D.A. Weibring Intercollegiate team title since 2003. The ‘Birds finished with a 33-over-par 873 (293-286-294) to edge Western Illinois (301-295-292) and 13 other teams through three rounds.
“I’m really pleased with the win,” ISU head coach Ray Kralis said. “I couldn’t be happier for Jeff. He’s worked hard, he’s a great player and it’s nice to see him break out like that. It’s a big step and a huge confidence builder. That’s been a positive of the team all year—different people stepping up and contributing. I thought it was a key win for us.
“It sure feels sweet [to win], especially at home at the Weibring Intercollegiate. It’s nice to represent and get that title back here in our house.”
Senior Kyle Bragg had a break-through showing of his own, carding a 9-over-par 219 (74-73-72) to place fifth overall. Bragg felt fighting the weather conditions for three rounds added another element.
“I was just hanging in there, battling the weather, trying to stay focused on each shot even though it was freezing cold out there,” Bragg said. “It was tough to stay warm. We’re definitely not used to this. We’ve had good weather all fall. The course was wet so a lot of shots weren’t rolling. We had to adjust.”
“It was good to get a team win in the fall heading into the spring.”
Sophomore Eric Meier and junior Will Cullen contributed eighth and 13th place finishes, respectively. Meier posted an 11-over-par 221 (73-70-78), while Cullen was close behind with a 14-over-par 224 (74-75-75).
Senior Tommy Bliefnick rounded out the Redbirds’ scoring with a 21-over-par 231 (75-76-80), good enough for 44th place.
“It’s just nice to win,” Kellen said. “The first tournament to win is always the hardest. We’ve been on the verge of winning some big tournaments lately. I think now that we’ve got one under our belt, we’ll have more confidence to win in the future.”
The remaining group of ISU golfers competed as individuals, showing positive signs for the future. Freshman Ryan Murphy and junior Drew North tied for 22nd place, as both golfers finished with a 17-over-par 227. Senior Joe Emerich shot a 20-over-par 230 (79-75-76) to tie for 39th place, while freshman Ricky Hearden tied for 50th place with a 23-over-par 233 (76-76-81).
Despite weather limitations, playing on the team’s home course seemed to be a deciding factor in beating out the competition.
“The team aspect [of winning] is great, especially being at home where we can do it in a nice fashion,” Kellen said.
“We play here pretty much every day. We knew where to hit and miss,” Bragg added. “We had three tournaments [on the road] and I was mentally drained. It felt good to play at home.”
The Redbird men’s golf team will conclude its fall season Oct. 26-27 at the Herb Wimberly Intercollegiate in Las Cruces, N.M.